Currently in the state of Colorado, there are only three hospitals in which the systematic collection of umbilical cord blood is routinely performed after the delivery of babies. In all the rest of the hospitals throughout the state, as in most other states, this precious source of pluripotent stem cells is discarded as waste. Democratic House Representative Dianne Primavera sees this as “an opportunity to turn medical waste into a medical miracle.” Indeed, patients such as Sheila Gannon agree. Diagnosed with advanced leukemia over two years ago, Sheila received an adult stem cell transplant from donated umbilical cord blood. As she stated in her testimony before the State House Health and Human Services Committee, “We are extremely grateful for this technology and for the medical community that administers it. I often think about the moms who graciously donate their umbilical cord blood. There is no doubt that without this I would not be here today.”
Many others enthusiastic advocates joined Representative Primavera and Ms. Gannon in supporting what is known as House Bill 1372, which, if ratified, would create the Adult Stem Cell Cure Fund: a voluntary income tax checkoff that would appear on future state income tax forms, revenue from which would promote the proper collection and storage of umbilical cord blood throughout the state of Colorado.
As Representative Primavera described, she sees an analogy between the umbilical cord as a “lifeline for a baby” and a lifeline for someone with a disease such as cancer or multiple sclerosis. As Sheila Gannon added, “I cannot think of a better way to pay it forward than to give all women the opportunity to donate the baby’s umbilical cord blood.” Doctors testifying before the Committee stated that there are roughly 80,000 births each year in Colorado, less than 1% of which currently result in a cord blood donation. If House Bill 1372 is passed, it is hoped that the money raised by the income tax checkoff could be used both for promoting education on the topic as well as for the actual cryogenic storage of donated cord blood, possibly for as long as 20 years for each donation. According to Dr. Chris Carey, who runs the OB-Gyn department at the Denver Health Medical Center, “It is my belief that this bill offers a tremendous opportunity to improve the health of Coloradans for a relatively small expense.”
Thus far, the new measure has passed the Committee unanimously. Next, it advances to the House Appropriations Committee.