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UK MP highlights need for comprehensive cord blood strategy

10 January 2010
Appeared in BioNews 540

Conservative MP for Enfield, Southgate, David Burrowes, led an adjournment debate in the House of Commons this week on the issue of umbilical cord blood banking and use. Stem cells from the umbilical cord of newborn babies have been successfully used as an alternative to bone marrow in the treatment of many blood disorders such as leukaemia, sickle-cell disease and immuno-deficiencies. Clinical research has also shown that cord blood may be developed to treat diabetes, liver therapy, multiple sclerosis, testicular cancer and may even regenerate damaged heart cells. Burrowes highlighted the need for an improved infrastructure for the collection of cord blood cells - currently, up to 99.5 per cent of all cord blood that could be utilised is being discarded by hospital staff as biological waste.

This is not the first time that this issue has received the attention of the UK Parliament. In 2008, Burrowes introduced a private member's bill to raise awareness of cord blood and its potential, an issue that was subsequently debated during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. It was argued that as only half of patients looking for a bone marrow donor will find one and, of those that do, only half will survive, there is a need for greater understanding and use of cord blood, and an increase in the number of cord blood units saved may improve the chance of survival. Furthermore, using stem cells from cord blood does not raise the same ethical concerns as those derived from human embryos and aborted fetuses and, as the Government has already stretched ethical boundaries to accommodate so-called 'savour siblings', then the use of cord blood should be afforded greater priority.

Burrowes explained that the medical and financial value of cord blood should not be underestimated. He stated: 'A properly developed infrastructure for collection and storage of cord blood will do much to alleviate the severe shortage of life-saving cells needed for transplantation and research'. It is his hope that the introduction of the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Umbilical Cord Blood and the Government's national cord blood review will go some way to addressing these issues. He added: 'I hope the government will demonstrate a clear commitment to a comprehensive cord blood strategy to increase cord blood collection and research, and as a result, a commitment to the many lives that can be saved'.

Although The NHS cord blood bank currently has stocks of approximately 14,000 units, more is needed, particularly from black and ethnic minority communities.
Commons debate Cols 383-384
Hansard |  7 January 2010
NHS 'needs a strategy on umbilical cord blood' |  7 January 2010
6 February 2012 - by Dr Mary Yarwood 
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Stem Cell Transplantation last week called for more facilities in the UK to increase the collection and banking of valuable cord blood....
11 March 2010 - by Dr Karen Devine 
The UK's Human Tissue Authority (HTA) issued a press release this week warning of the dangers of collecting umbilical cord blood stem cells by those who are unqualified to do so. Cord blood is rich in stem cells that contain potentially powerful biological properties, which could be useful in the treatment of certain blood disorders and cancers, and may in the long term be used in regenerative medicine....
25 January 2010 - by Dr Sophie Pryor 
Scientists in the US have developed a new technique for multiplying the small number of stem cells found in umbilical cord blood and have tested it on leukaemia patients for the first time. It is hoped that the new technique could ultimately remove the need for tissue-matched bone marrow transplants....
25 January 2010 - by Dr Karen Devine 
In last week's BioNews, Mr David Burrowes, MP, commented on his successful introduction of a private member's bill on umbilical cord blood (UCB) donation in the UK Parliament in 2008, and how his continued efforts to raise awareness of the benefits of saving UCB for public use has been favourably met in a recent adjournment debate in the House of Commons....
19 January 2010 - by David Burrowes MP 
In 2008 I was the first UK MP to raise the issue of umbilical cord blood (UCB) banking as a private members bill in Parliament and several MPs spoke to me of their previous ignorance of UCB. It is an ignorance I shared despite being a parent of six children and living close to one of the National Health Service (NHS) hospitals that collects it....
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