House bill would add Columbia site for umbilical cord blood collection

If a Missouri House bill regarding umbilical cord blood samples survives the journey to become state law, the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank could receive a larger number of genetically-diverse donations that would help keep up with the growing rate of transplants each year.

That was the message supporters of HB 1193 brought to a House Health Care Policy Subcommittee on Wednesday. The legislation would craft a system for collecting umbilical cord blood in Columbia, Kansas City and Springfield.

Under HB 1193, samples would travel from collection sites in these cities to the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center for bone marrow donation and research.

The Department of Health and Senior Services would oversee the sites. According to the bill, the state would cover the costs of transportation, allowing that 90 percent of the cord blood collections would be designated to the National Marrow Donor Program. The remaining 10 percent would be used for research.

Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, is sponsoring the legislation after introducing a similar bill last year that died in committee.

Aleksander Babic, medical director of the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank, pressed the committee that now is the time to act. He said 10,000 bone marrow transplants are performed nationally and the rate is growing by 9 percent a year because of the growing population.

“Cord blood is extremely important in the field of bone marrow transplantation,” he said. The number of cells and the tissue specificity of the units is critical for these transplants. Babic said that as the country grows more diverse, increasing collections from various areas will be necessary.

Area samples are matched with others around the country for compatibility. Babic said that Minnesota is one of the biggest users of cord blood from Missouri because of its similar demographics. Roorda pointed out that more collections in-state will only help Missourians because the relationship is reciprocal.

“I’m open to anything that makes this a reality,” Roorda said.

That may mean using existing transportation to tamp down the fee on the original fiscal note, roughly $850,000 noted in the meeting.

The Department of Health and Senior Service’s courier service travels to these hospitals already for neonatal blood samples. Roorda pointed out that if the cord samples could be added to the end of the route, it would be possible for them to make it to St. Louis within the short time frame.

Babic said the blood bank likes to receive cells within 36 hours of donation. After 72 hours, the cells aren’t eligible for transplantation.

Committee chair Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, asked if the bill would in any way interfere with a donor’s right to designate who would receive the donation.

Donna Regan director of the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank, assured the room that the processes for specific donations and samples for the general population are separate and distinct.

Kerry Messer, president of the Missouri Family Network and Americans United for Life, stressed that the legislature needs to put its stamp of approval on this project sooner rather than later.

“This is an issue that clearly is going to be saving a lot of lives in the future,” he said. “Everybody is going to be asking, ‘Why didn’t Missouri do this sooner?’”

The proposal took shape after Roorda took a tour of the facility at Cardinal Glennon.

“I was so impressed when I learned that they’re doing a great job there, but we’re not statewide,” he said.

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