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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 09:55 GMT
Reeve hopes for stem cell cure
Christopher Reeve in 1996
The Superman actor was paralysed in a riding accident
Paralysed actor Christopher Reeve believes he will walk again, if stem cell research in the UK is allowed to continue.

The star of the Superman films said he would be willing to travel to Britain for treatment to repair his spinal cord, which was damaged during a riding accident in 1995.

Mr Reeve told BBC Radio 5 Live that the House of Lords Select Committee must decide in favour of embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning when it votes on the issue later this week.

He said: "I certainly hope that in revisiting the issues the Lords will really take the time to understand what the technology actually is and to recognise that it has nothing to do with destroying life."

UK 'progressive'

Mr Reeve said he will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair unless scientists are allowed to continue their research.

I really wish the public and those who will be making policy would understand that scientists do not need to use fertilised embryos

Christopher Reeve

He hopes they will learn how to turn stem cells into spinal cord tissue which could enable him to walk again.

"I believe that it's got to be a worldwide effort to conquer the problem and the UK is very progressive in terms of its attitude to medical research and I don't want to see setbacks in this very promising area," he said.

Mr Reeve said the pro-life lobby has nothing to fear because there was no question of the research destroying life.

"Even if you believe that life begins at the moment of fertilisation of a sperm and an egg that's not required for this scientific research," he said.

"I really wish the public and those who will be making policy would understand that scientists do not need to use fertilised embryos for their research.

"I do not understand what the objection could be."

Controversial research

Proposed UK regulations would permit stem cell research under strict licence - a regime which the Superman actor applauds.

However, scientists believe they are many years away from being able to use their research for the treatments he needs.

Stem cells are developed in the first days of an embryo's life, and are the body's "master" cells that have the potential to develop into any other type of cell in the body.

Research into this area is controversial because of the source of the cells.

They are obtained either from human embryos (for example, from an abortion clinic) or from a cloned embryo - a procedure known as therapeutic cloning.

US vote

The US House of Representatives voted last year to ban all human cloning, including therapeutic cloning, and the US Senate is preparing to debate the issue next month.

Stem cells are obtained from human embryos
Earlier this week Mr Reeve attended a US conference pushing for legislation banning reproductive cloning, but permitting therapeutic cloning.

He told the US conference a stem cell breakthrough would be a welcome "miracle".

"You remember a more normal life and wonder if you can ever get that back."

Researchers are still trying to find alternative ways of generating stem cells.

One US team, for example, is trying to get unfertilised eggs to start dividing like embryos.

Another believes it may have discovered cells in adults that could turn into any tissue.

The BBC's Christine McGourty
"This is all cutting edge research"
Christopher Reeve talks to the BBC's Brian Alexander
"The UK is very progressive in its attitude towards medical research"
See also:

18 Dec 01 | Europe
Stem cell ethics under microscope
23 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Q&A: Therapeutic human cloning
10 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Stem cells: Q & A
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