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A private members' bill that would greatly expand bone marrow data banks and require the state to fund them rather than depend on voluntary donations passed its preliminary reading at the Knesset on Tuesday.
Initiated by MKs Zevulun Orlev and Ze'ev Bielsky, the bill, if passed, would mean enough bone marrow specimens to find suitable matches for 95 percent of those who need them for treating and even curing some cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, and certain autoimmune and hereditary diseases.
At present, there are three bone marrow tissue-typing centers, with the largest one run by the voluntary organization Ezer Mizion. It costs about NIS 180 to test each sample (usually abroad), and the costs need to be covered by donations.
Under the proposed legislation, a million tissue samples would be available instead of the current 480,000 at Ezer Mizion. People who are making blood donations for other reasons would be asked if they want to join the data bank and would have to give their written permission for their blood to be tested for this purpose.
No information about the blood sample would be supplied to any other source except to the bone marrow data bank, stipulated Orlev and Bielski. The Health Ministry would be responsible for a national awareness campaign to explain the need for and the benefits of bone marrow tissue-data, according to the bill.
At present, numerous ethnic groups, including Mizrahi Jews and Arabs, are less represented in existing data banks. The authors of the bill said that bone-marrow matching should not be dependent on fundraising from private donors.