Tuesday, June 6

New law signed by Gov. Blagojevich to raise awareness of umbilical cord blood donation benefits          Send a link to a friend

[JUNE 6, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation Monday to educate people about the benefits, costs and uses associated with umbilical cord blood collection. Cord blood stem cells, found in a baby's umbilical cord blood, can be used to treat a variety of serious illnesses, including leukemias, lymphomas and immune deficiencies like sickle cell anemia. House Bill 5245, sponsored by state Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Springfield, and state Sen, William Haine, D-Alton, requires the Illinois Department of Public Health to prepare written publications that provide details about umbilical cord blood donations and to distribute the material to health and maternal care providers.

"Each year, thousands of people are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases. And while the umbilical cord is normally thrown away after a child is born, it could give hope to someone suffering from leukemia, anemia or another serious disease," Blagojevich said. "I'm proud to sign a law that will help more people understand and take advantage of umbilical cord blood donation."

The legislation will further efforts to educate residents of Illinois regarding cord blood donation by requiring the Illinois Department of Public Health to make it a public health goal to make maximum use of umbilical cord blood donations. Instead of being treated as medical waste, umbilical cord blood can be stored after a baby's birth, either for future use by the child or for a biological family member. The blood could also be donated to the National Marrow Donor Program to be screened for a match for a person in need of the stem cells. The donor program operates a network of public and nonprofit banks and provides a registry and database search for those in need of cord blood.

"The possibilities of how cord blood donations can help are endless," said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Eric E. Whitaker. "Seriously ill patients whose bodies cannot make healthy cells of their own can be helped by a donation of healthy blood cells from a matched donor or cord blood unit. The umbilical cord contains large numbers of blood-forming cells that can develop into red blood cells to carry oxygen, white blood cells to fight infections and platelets, which help stop bleeding."

"Research suggests that stem cells from cord blood may help persons suffering from leukemia, anemia or other immune deficiencies," said Brauer, who introduced the legislation in the Illinois House in January. "This new law is needed to raise awareness about the benefits of cord blood and to boost umbilical cord donations in an effort to save lives."

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The Illinois Department of Public Health will prepare written publications that include information such as how cord blood is collected, the availability of cord blood in Illinois, and the costs, benefits and risks of donating cord blood. These publications will be distributed to health and maternal care providers and updated every two years.

"With advances in medical technology, we now know that it is possible that breakthroughs involving stem cells could cure cancers of all kinds, in addition to other neurological diseases," said Haine, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate. "One way to get these stem cells is through umbilical cord blood. This option is much better than other options for attaining stem cells for scientific purposes, and this bill will allow Illinois to go to the forefront of scientific achievement without wading into the shaky ethical ground that could come with these advances."

The bill is effective immediately.

Over the course of his administration, Blagojevich has demonstrated a commitment to stem cell research and cord blood donation. In July 2003, the governor signed legislation requiring hospitals to offer the option of umbilical cord blood donation, making Illinois the first state in the nation to guarantee pregnant women would have the chance to donate cord blood for medical treatment or research.

Additionally, the governor has, along with Comptroller Dan Hynes, created the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute, which committed $10 million in public funds to stem cell research. In April, the first 10 grants were handed out to several Illinois hospitals and research institutions that are studying all applications of stem cell research, including adult stem cells found in cord blood.

[News release from the governor's office]


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