March 10, 2009 | The birth of a baby holds with it a miracle most parents aren’t aware of – the ability to save a life.
Blood cells collected from the umbilical cord following the birth of a healthy child are a source of treatment for patients with cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma who lack a bone marrow donor.
Parents can have their children’s cord blood stored for their future use, they can donate it to help others with life-threatening conditions or they can donate it for scientific research.
Now, through a check-off program on state tax forms, Arkansans have the option to donate all or part of their income tax refunds to help build a statewide cord blood banking system based at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
This is the second year Arkansans have had this opportunity through the Newborn Umbilical Cord Initiative Act of 2007
The law allows Arkansas to begin storing and researching potentially life-saving blood cells harvested from umbilical cords following the birth of healthy children. It also includes a check-off form with state tax forms that allow Arkansas tax filers to designate all or part of their refund to the initiative. No funding was included in the law other than the tax check-off program.
Filers expecting to owe money also have the option to donate by filling out the same form, but submitting a separate donation check.
The Cord Blood Bank of Arkansas will link with national and international networks of cord blood banks that supply these life-saving cells for transplant and research all over the world.
“This was a big first step in securing funding for a program with enormous healing and life-saving potential,” said Michele Fox, M.D., a UAMS professor of pathology and director of Cell Therapy and Transfusion Medicine. “Cells harvested from the umbilical cord immediately following the birth of a healthy child have shown tremendous promise for regenerating diseased or injured organs, including dead heart muscle, bone and spinal cord tissue.”
It’s not often we’re given the chance to be a part in curing or treating more than 100 million Americans and 2 billion people suffering from diseases worldwide.
“Our hope is that by having this option available to Arkansans, an initial funding stream is created that will open up the flood gates for this valuable program,” said Tim Clark, an Arkansas businessman whom Beebe appointed chairman of the Arkansas Commission for the Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Initiative. “We have the expertise and the plan to make it happen, but funding is now the key for this program to begin saving lives.”
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a new 540,000-square-foot hospital, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,652 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com.