Enactment of Cord-Blood Stem Cell Act Is Praised

Wonderful News for Patients, Says U.S. Bishops’ Aide

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WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A U.S. bishops’ conference aide hailed President George Bush’s signing into law the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005.

The law establishes a new federal program to collect and store cord blood, and expands the current bone marrow registry program to also include cord blood.

“This is wonderful news for the many thousands of suffering patients who can benefit from umbilical cord blood stem cell treatments,” said Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of the bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, who attended today’s ceremonial signing at the White House.

“We are grateful to Congress and the president for enacting this legislation without further delay,” Doerflinger said in a statement.

The bishops’ aide continued: “The House of Representatives passed Representative Chris Smith’s legislation, to support and coordinate a nationwide public bank of cord blood stem cells, almost unanimously on May 24.

“Yet this urgently needed life-saving legislation was blocked for months in the Senate, held hostage to debates over far more controversial and speculative stem cell research requiring the destruction of human embryos. In the last days of this session the deadlock was finally ended, and Congress agreed on the kind of stem cell treatments that can begin saving patients’ lives here and now.”

Cardinal’s appeal

Doerflinger quoted from a July 11 letter in which Cardinal William Keeler, chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, urged Senate approval of the bill.

“Umbilical cord blood stem cells have successfully treated thousands of patients with dozens of diseases,” the cardinal’s letter said. “They also exhibit properties once associated chiefly with embryonic stem cells: They grow rapidly in culture, producing enough cells to be clinically useful in both children and adults; they can treat patients who are not an exact genetic match, without being rejected as foreign tissue; and they seem able to produce a wide array of different cell types.'”

Doerflinger added: “As Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, how appropriate that we can also celebrate the medical miracles made possible by cord blood retrieved immediately after live births. Congress and the president have given a wonderful Christmas present to patients in need.”

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