Bipartisan Coalition of State Legislators Push to Make Connecticut a National Leader in Cord Blood Education and Banking

February 1, 2011

Hartford, CT – A bipartisan coalition of state legislators including Senator Len Fasano (R-North Haven), Senator Jonathan Harris (D- West Hartford), Senator Dan Debicella (R-Shelton), Rep. Elizabeth Ritter (D- Quaker Hill), Representative Jan Giegler (R- Danbury) and medical experts from around the state and country will gather in Hartford on Monday, February 1st to launch a public discussion on the importance of cord blood education and banking.

A newborn child’s umbilical cord is rich with unique cells, similar to those found in bone marrow. These stem cells have been successfully used to treat a growing number of diseases and conditions – from leukemia and other cancers to sickle cell disease and multiple sclerosis. There is also emerging research which indicates that these cells have the potential to effectively treat brain injury, cerebral palsy, heart disease and Type 1 diabetes.

“Doctors and researchers are only starting to unlock the life-saving potential of cord blood stem cells,” said Senator Fasano. “Imagine curing your child’s diabetes or a parent’s heart disease! The possibilities are limitless with these incredible advancements. I am eagerly anticipating Monday’s forum and I am hopeful that with the legislature working together, with the medical community, we can make real strides toward making Connecticut a national leader in cord blood banking and donation.”

Right now, according to the Cord Blood Registry, Connecticut is one of only 17 states in the country to have implemented legislation promoting education and awareness on the benefits of cord blood banking as recommended by the Institutes of Medicine. Last year, Sen. Fasano, along with Sen. Harris, Sen. Debicella, Rep. Ritter and Rep. Giegler worked hard to include in a major public health bill (PA 09-232) a provision that now requires healthcare providers to give expecting women “timely, relevant and appropriate information” regarding the option to bank or donate umbilical cord blood.

Senator Harris said: “This is a very important public health issue that has tremendous potential health benefits that women and families need to be aware of.”

Senator Debicella said: “It is important for us to understand how we can take advantage of medical technology to help save lives. I am grateful that these experts are willing to share their knowledge with us.”

Leading the panel discussion at Monday’s forum is Dr. Charles Lockwood. Dr. Lockwood is a world-renowned expert in maternal-fetal medicine specializing in pregnancy loss, preterm delivery and maternal thrombophilias, a blood clotting disorder in pregnancy. Dr. Lockwood serves as chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine. He also serves as Chief of Ob/Gyn at Yale New Haven Hospital and is the director of the Yale Women’s Health Center.

“Our biggest focus now is finding a viable solution for a public cord blood bank in Connecticut,” said Dr. Lockwood. “There is a nationwide – and statewide – crisis with respect to the ready access of stem cells, particularly for African Americans and other minorities. As a state it is critical that we focus our attention on building that cell bank in order to provide the potentially life-saving treatment options for those who need it most. Unfortunately, it is oftentimes difficult, if not impossible, to gain and keep the attention of lawmakers so we are extremely grateful to Senator Fasano and the coalition for their commitment to this important work and look forward to the road ahead.”

Senator Fasano became particularly connected with the issue of cord blood banking and donation after meeting Glen & Kristina Mitchell. The Mitchells created the Kacey Rose Foundation in memory of their daughter, Kacey Rose. At the age of two, Kacey Rose was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia and underwent several rounds of chemotherapy. As part of her treatment she eventually received a transplant using cord blood stem cells that had been banked and donated.

“I look forward to participating in this forum and learning more about this issue,” said Rep. Betsy Ritter.

Lead House Republican on the legislature’s Public Health Committee Rep. Janice Giegler said, “It is critical that we educate and encourage people to bank cord blood and store it for future use, similar to the bone-marrow donor bank.”

A press conference will be held prior to the forum on Monday February 1st, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building, Room 2D. The forum will follow immediately.