Stem Cell Harvesting Case Could Send Woman to Prison
Some people will do anything if it makes money for them, whether it's legal or ethical or not. An Arizona businesswoman is facing federal charges in a case that involved buying discarded human umbilical cords and selling the embryonic stem cells harvested from the cord blood.
Federal prosecutors in Houston say the woman, who owns a medical laboratory in Arizona, bought umbilical cords from a Del Rio midwife who had told new parents that their babies' tissue would be donated.
She then hired a researcher to extract stem cells from the cord blood and later sold the stem cells to a Brownsville man who used them to treat patients with chronic illnesses.
Umbilical cord blood is rich with stem cells that, if used to treat or prevent human disease, would be considered a drug under federal law.
The woman, Fredda Branyon of Scottsdale, Arizona, has worked out a plea bargain, and has pleaded guilty to a charge of introducing an unapproved drug through interstate commerce. She also agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
Branyon will be sentenced in November, and she could get up to three years in prison. However, under her plea agreement, prosecutors could ask for a lighter sentence if she continues to help the investigation.