TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey plans to create a storage bank for umbilical cord blood to aid stem-cell research, a program that state officials said will be the first of its kind in the nation.
Two nonprofit community blood banks will accept donations from healthy newborns made with parents’ permission. Under the one-year pilot program, the blood will be used for treatment of illnesses, such as leukemia, or to conduct research.
An estimated $300,000 each will be given to the Elie Katz Umbilical Cord Blood Program at Community Blood Services in Paramus and the Coriell Institute for Medical Research in Camden, said Cynthia Kirchner, senior policy adviser to the state’s public health commissioner.
The executive order was signed Tuesday by acting Gov. Richard J. Codey, a Democrat.
Stem cells are undeveloped cells found in embryos, umbilical cord blood, placentas and certain types of adult tissue. Unlike embryonic stem cells, the harvesting of which destroys the embryo and is at the center of a moral furor, stem cells from cord blood already are known to have medical benefits.
Most clinical use for cord blood is for cancer, said Rick Cohen, director of Coriell’s stem-cell program.
“A number of children literally owe their lives to the generous donations of those New Jersey moms and dads who chose to donate their children’s cord blood to our public bank,” Dennis Todd, president and chief executive officer for Community Blood Services.
The state health department plans a campaign to educate medical professionals and mothers about the donation program and its benefits.
“Basically, it’s taking something that we would have discarded and process it so research can benefit,” said Ellen Harris, program director and registered nurse for the bank in Camden.