The obvious need for stem cell research and increasing public support has been highlighted regularly the last few years, and the reality is that this ‘future treatment’ is available now. More recently however, adult stem cell advocates are urging U.S. lawmakers to pass a re-authorization bill that would continue funding for cell transplant programs that utilize adult mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow and cord blood to research and treat chronic conditions in the United States.
“These programs are examples of how the Congress can inspire innovation to bring cures to patients across America,” said one witness, Dr. Jeffrey W. Chell, CEO of the National Marrow Donor Program. Chell and Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, a professor at Duke University and director of the Carolina Cord Blood Bank, were among those who testified at a hearing titled “Examining Public Health Legislation,” convened June 25th by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee.
The subcommittee included consideration of the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Re-authorization Act of 2015, written by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey. He and Rep. Doris Matsui, D-California, introduced the bill a week earlier with bipartisan support.
More funding is needed
“Cord blood and bone-marrow adult stem cells have an applicability and potential that is proven and invaluable — promising life-saving cures for multiple diseases. The program must be extended and I look forward to this bill advancing quickly through the legislative process and being signed into law,” Smith said in a statement. Smith also was the author of the 2005 measure, which created the National Cord Blood Inventory program and continued the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation program, which provides support to patients who need a potentially life-saving bone marrow transplant or umbilical cord-blood transplant.
The cell transplantation program is named for the late Congressman C.W. Bill Young. In 1986 he backed efforts to strengthen the National Marrow Donor Program’s “Be the Match” registry. That led to the program named for Young, who died in 2013 at age 82.
The 2015 bill would reauthorize funding from fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2020, with $23 million a year for the National Cord Blood Inventory and $30 million a year for C.W. Bill Young program.
“Both programs have made a tremendous difference in the lives of thousands of patients,” Kurtzberg testified. Smith’s 2005 measure helped push for the collection of umbilical blood-cord units from hospitals that otherwise would have discarded them, so that stem cells could be derived from them for research and treatments. Kurtzberg noted the successes of the National Cord Blood Inventory program, including how it was providing unrelated cord-blood donations for the purpose of treating diseases such as sickle cell anemia. “Unrelated” means the cord-blood comes from one individual but is used for another patient.
Adult stem cells from Beike Biotechnology have been used in over 20,500 patients
Even the Catholic Church supports research and therapies utilizing adult stem cells, which can develop into a variety of specialized cells, alleviating degenerative illnesses by repairing damaged tissues. Last year, Pope Francis sent a family in Venezuela a letter giving his blessing and wishing them the best during their stem cell treatment for visual impairment. Adult stem cells are drawn from living human beings without harming them, as well as from umbilical cord blood or bone marrow. The church opposes any research that harms the human embryo.
Adult stem cells from Beike Biotechnology, an international cell therapy company and adult stem cell provider in Shenzhen, China have been used in over 20,500 patients alone. Other sources statistics claim that over 60,000 patients are receiving stem cell transplants globally.
She also spoke about the potential use of cord-blood cellular therapies for the treatment of brain injuries.
“Over the past six years, we have initiated trials of autologous (the patient’s own) cord blood in babies with birth asphyxia… cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and autism.”
“Today we are able to treat patients with cancers and pre-cancers, such as leukemia, myelodysplasia and lymphomas; bone-marrow failure disorders, such as aplastic anemia and immunodeficiency syndrome; and genetic diseases, such as sickle cell disease,” he said.
The need for transplants is increasing
“The adult stem cells found in bone marrow and cord blood provide hope not only for curing the diseases and conditions currently known, but they also set the stage for even more cures in the future,” said Smith, a member of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus for 32 years. During his 18 terms in the House of Representatives, he’s help co-found caucuses on Alzheimer’s, Lyme disease and autism.
It’s clear that such programs are needed now, and perhaps even more in the future if there isn’t a change in the US. “The need for transplants is increasing, especially among older Americans. The calculated need for unrelated transplant has increased by 25 percent since 2005,” according to Chell’s testimony.
Without many options currently available in the U.S. and other western countries, patients are turning to clinics abroad such as Better Being Hospital in Thailand, who utilizes Beike Biotechnology cells and protocols to treat devastating and life-altering diseases. The research and clinical trials, additional therapeutic support and success rate of these transplants are the defining factors in this decision.