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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Nancy Reagan plea on stem cells
Ronald and Nancy Reagan on the former president's 89th birthday, in 2000
Ronald Reagan is suffering the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease
Former US First Lady Nancy Reagan has urged the Bush administration to support embryonic stem cell research.

Mrs Reagan said too much time had been wasted already discussing the issue.

She is said to believe the research could lead to a cure for Alzheimer's disease, which has afflicted her husband, Ronald Reagan.

The Bush administration has blocked public funding of this type of research because of his party's ethical reservations about embryo research.

At a fundraising dinner for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Hollywood, Mrs Reagan said her husband was now in "a distant place where I can no longer reach him".

"I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this... We have lost so much time already. I just really can't bear to lose any more."

She said she believed stem cell research "may provide our scientists with many answers that for so long have been beyond our grasp".

It is thought to be the first time that Mrs Reagan has made a public speech on the issue, although her views have long been known.

Political debate

Mrs Reagan is the latest high-profile figure to criticise the Bush administration for its decision to limit funding for stem cell research.

Michael J. Fox and Nancy Reagan
Actor Michael J. Fox praised Mrs Reagan for "taking the issue out of politics"
Former Superman actor Christopher Reeve, left severely disabled following a riding accident, and actor Michael J. Fox, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease, have both criticised the Bush administration for blocking research which they believe could improve their conditions.

Currently federal funds are not available for this type of work.

Mr Bush has told scientists he will not release US taxpayers' money for the production or investigation of new lines because it involves the destruction of human embryos.

Correspondents say that with the Bush administration and anti-abortion groups strongly opposed to stem cell research, Mrs Reagan's comments add a powerful conservative Republican voice to the debate.


SEE ALSO:
Reagan 'unable to walk or talk'
05 Dec 03  |  Americas
New stem cells made available
03 Mar 04  |  Science/Nature
Children treated with stem cells
17 Feb 04  |  Americas
Scientists clone 30 human embryos
12 Feb 04  |  Science/Nature
Stem cell architect is knighted
31 Dec 03  |  Science/Nature
Stem cells 'could boost breasts'
09 Feb 04  |  Health


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