In the short term, the cells will strengthen the host body, but in the long run it could save it. That's the vision that has caused state Rep. John Enns, who attended Wednesday's announcement, to be an advocate of umbilical stem cell research since he was a professor at Northern Oklahoma College in Enid.
In 2004, heavy equipment Enns was using on his farm rolled over, breaking his back and leaving him paralyzed.
Enns said since his spinal cord injury is not a “complete injury,” meaning he can still feel pain, he is not a candidate for an umbilical cord stem cell transplant. Should that change, Enns said, he will use the procedure to help heal his injuries.
In 2005, the federal Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act established a national cord blood inventory program.
Since then, cord blood has been donated to laboratories and banks for research, and has been used for private transfusions back to mothers who donated the blood when they had a need arise, Dixon said.
Public transfusions, or those that can go from a consenting mother to a stranger in need, have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in Oklahoma. Researchers at OBI plan to send a proposal to the FDA.
Armitage said the blood bank is especially useful in Oklahoma due to its large Native American population and the fact that blood type matches for the group are limited. He said the banks will no doubt be useful to patients of every ethnicity and blood type.
“We want people who would otherwise have to go to New York or California, where these services are offered, to know that Oklahoma is an option. We want folks to know this is a place they can come to get help, too,” Armitage said.
Remodeling work is underway for the bank, expected to open in July at 1001 N Lincoln Blvd.