Page URL:

MP calls for a greater awareness of cord blood facilities

14 January 2008
Appeared in BioNews 440

The potentially life-saving properties of cord blood stem cells, taken from the umbilical cords of newborn babies, has been highlighted by a UK politician this week. Conservative MP David Burrowes presented a 10-minute rule bill to Parliament on 8 January 2008, which requires doctors to inform patients of the ability to collect their stem cells for private use or for donation to a public pool. The bill's aim is to encourage parents and the wider public to be more informed about the value and benefits of umbilical cord blood (UCB).

Stem cells from UCB have been used for transplantation purposes since the first successful transplant in 1988 on Matthew Farrow, a five- year-old boy affected by Fanconi's Anaemia. Since then, UCB has been used to treat disorders such as thalassaemia, immunodeficiency, inherited metabolic diseases, aplastic anaemia and acute leukaemia. However, in spite of its success within a clinical setting, UCB is routinely thrown away by hospitals as biological waste. This has prompted Mr Burrowes to bring to the attention of Parliament the unnecessary disposal of this potentially powerful resource.

The routine disposal of the cells is particularly poignant given the plight of many families who are unable to find a suitable bone marrow match and may benefit from UCB. This was one of the reasons that underpinned the MP's decision to champion the cause, in particular that of Becki Josiah, a mother from Walthamstow, East London, whose daughter died in April 2006 when the search for a suitable bone marrow donor failed. Ms Josiah explained that the search for a matching donor was made even more problematic due to the fact that her daughter was of mixed race background.

Although a 10-minute rule bill itself is prohibited from becoming law due to its 'stand-alone' status, it is hoped that it will spark further debate into the need for a greater infrastructure and funding of UCB stem cells. Indeed, Colin McGuckin, professor of regenerative medicine at Newcastle University said: 'Cord blood has already cured around 10,000 people, but despite this much of the UK stem cell funding goes towards other types of stem cells'. Furthermore, there are currently only two active public banking facilities in the UK, collecting from a mere six NHS hospitals, thus restricting the total number of available UCB units.

One of the key concerns of UCB collection is the logistical pressure it places on maternity staff who are currently relied upon to facilitate the procurement of the cells. Whilst broadly supportive of the aims of the bill, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology (RCOG) said: 'The RCOG recommends than an appropriately trained and skilled technician is present to collect the cord blood so that the obstetrician and midwife are focused on the care of the mother immediately after the birth'.

MP introduces Bill to stop throwing away life saving blood
Christian Today |  5 January 2008
MP's life-saving cord blood bid
BBC News Online |  8 January 2008
Oral Answers to Questions - Foreign and Commonwealth Office Umbilical Cord Blood (Donation)
House of Commons Debates |  8 January 2008
6 April 2009 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Some UK National Health Service (NHS) hospitals are banning the collection of umbilical cord blood at birth unless it goes into a public blood bank rather than being stored for future use by the individual. King's College hospital in London and Watford General hospital in Hertfordshire have...
15 September 2008 - by Dr Karen Devine 
The UK's Antony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust this week launched a new initiative - the Antony Nolan Cord Blood Bank and a combined stem cell research centre at Nottingham Trent University. Mothers who deliver babies at the Kings College Hospital, London, are being recruited to donate the stem...
7 July 2008 - by Dr Karen Devine 
This week saw the introduction of licensing agreements for UK premises that wish to undertake the collection of umbilical cord blood (UCB) stem cells on behalf of pregnant women. Cord blood has been collected and used in the treatment of certain blood diseases such as leukaemia, and...
31 March 2008 - by Dr Karen Devine 
The journal Stem Cells and Development has announced the results of an exciting new research project being carried out by a collaboration of researchers from the University of Florida, Yale University, New Haven, Cedars Sinai Medical Centre, Los Angeles, Saneron CCEL Therapeutics, Incorporated and The Saintama Medical...
18 February 2008 - by Dr Karen Devine 
After two months of treatment for a rare form of cancer known as Neuroblastoma, two-year old Caden Ledbetter came home from hospital in Dallas, Texas, this week, cancer-free. Neuroblastoma is a fast-growing cancer, which affects the nervous system. Sporting a surgical mask and clutching a teddy bear...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.