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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

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For Immediate Release: March 12, 2007

Senator Jay Paul Gumm
Senator Jay Paul Gumm

Senate Votes to Create Public Umbilical Cord Blood Bank

The Oklahoma Senate today said every family should be able to bank potentially life-saving umbilical cord blood from newborns through a publicly funded cord blood bank.

Senators approved Senate Bill 139 by Senator Jay Paul Gumm. The measure would create the Oklahoma Public Cord Blood Bank at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

The bank would be a repository of umbilical cord blood donated by families following the birth of healthy children. That blood is rich in adult stem cells, which can be used to treat a variety of blood diseases, including leukemia, as well as various immune and metabolic disorders.

“The public bank would give every Oklahoma family a chance to store their umbilical cord blood with lifesaving results,” Gumm said. “Every family, not just the wealthiest among us, deserves access cord blood banking.”

Private cord blood banks are available now, but the cost associated with testing, processing and storing cord blood cells is out of the reach of most Oklahoma families. “We’ve all seen commercials for private cord blood banks that never mention the cost,” he said. “It’s almost like the old saying, ‘If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it’.”

Another problem with private banks, the senator added, is that they cater to those who pay the bill: family members genetically related to the infant whose cord blood is collected. The benefit is narrowly directed, and the cells in the blood are not part of national bone marrow and cord blood registries.

“By making this service available to more people, chances are increased that more Oklahomans could benefit from cord blood cells and countless lives potentially could be saved.” Gumm said.

Oklahoma is behind one of our neighboring states in the area of public cord blood banking, he related. The Texas Legislature provided support to the Texas Cord Blood Bank through a $1 million start-up grant in 2004 and a $1.2 million matching grant in 2005.

“We owe it to ourselves to catch up here in Oklahoma,” Gumm said. “There are cases of children whose lives flickered before transplants of stem cells made possible by cord blood donations. Many of those
once-flickering souls now shine brightly in the form of healthy children.”

The Texas model is a public/private partnership, a template that would serve Oklahoma well, Gumm said. “If we put a small expenditure in the budget this year for start-up – say one dollar for every Oklahoman, or $3.5 million – we can get the ball rolling,” he said.

After that, the lawmaker said, it would be a good investment to continue legislative support tied to private giving. “I have no doubt that support for this among Oklahomans would grow if we in the Legislature can give it a jump start,” he said.

A big step in that “jump start” came Monday with a 44-0 vote in the Senate; the measure now is referred to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

For more information contact:
Senator Gumm's Office - (405) 521-5586

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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