By Catholic News Service     12/22/2015

WASHINGTON (CNS) — With bipartisan support in the House and Senate, the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act passed Dec. 16 and has been sent to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.

In the House the sponsor of H.R. 2820 was Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey, with Rep. Doris Matsui, D-California, as the lead co-sponsor. Reps. David Jolly, R-Florida, and Chaka Fattah, D-Pennsylvania, also helped shepherd the bill through the House.

In the Senate, lead sponsors were Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Richard Burr or North Carolina and Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.

“It is incredibly timely to reauthorize this life-giving program during this gift-giving time of year,” Smith said in a statement. “Americans willing to give the gift of life to others are at the heart of the success of this program.

“In reauthorizing it we are grateful for the adult donors willing to provide bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells, as well as mothers who donate their child’s cord blood through public cord-blood banks,” added Smith, who also was the author of the 2005 measure.

The 2015 bill reauthorizes funding from fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2020, with $23 million a year for the National Cord Blood Inventory and $30 million a year for C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation program.

The Young program provides support to patients who need a potentially life-saving bone marrow transplant or umbilical cord-blood transplant. It is named for the late Congressman C.W. Bill Young. In 1986 he backed efforts to strengthen the National Marrow Donor Program’s “Be the Match” registry. That led to the program named for Young, who died in 2013 at age 82.

The Catholic Church supports research and therapies utilizing adult stem cells, which can develop into a variety of specialized cells, alleviating degenerative illnesses by repairing damaged tissues. Adult stem cells are drawn from living human beings without harming them, as well as from umbilical cord blood or bone marrow. The church opposes any research that harms the human embryo.

Statistics show that more than 60,000 patients around the world are receiving treatments for a variety of diseases from adult stem cells.