The Desert Sun 7/28/04

Reagan: Support stem-cell research

By Darrell Smith

Jo Rosen founded the Parkinson’s Resource Center with a plan: to lead the organization until doctors found a cure for the disease. Five years, she figured, seven on the outside.

Fifteen years later, she and the hundreds of thousands of others affected by the debilitating disease still wait.

"We live only on hope because there is no cure," she said from the organization’s Palm Desert office on Tuesday. "There’s nothing that sounds close to a cure at this point."

Jack Moore of Palm Springs cared for his mother in the winter of her life and witnessed her mind-robbing struggle with dementia.

"Once you’ve gone through that," he said, "you’ll do anything for a cure."

But as they watched Ron Reagan’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Rosen and Moore were hopeful. They were hopeful that his address on embryonic stem cell research will lead to awareness of the benefits of the research, and ultimately, a cure for Parkinson’s, dementia and other crippling diseases.

"Stem-cell research is one of the strings we hang onto for hope," Rosen said.

Reagan, who lost his father, President Ronald Reagan, in June after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, did not mention his father or the disease that claimed him, but named a long list of diseases that could be tackled by stem cell research.

Stem cells are "unspecialized" cells that have the ability to generate healthy new cells, tissues and organs. The scientific community has thrilled at the potential to cure a host of crippling and fatal diseases by growing stem cells to replace faulty and diseased cells.

But it has also drawn great controversy. Because of concerns that embryos would be destroyed when embryonic stem cells are harvested, stem cell research has also been pulled into the abortion debate.

Reagan addressed the controversy on the convention floor Tuesday night, saying no fetal tissue would be used in the process and that politics and personal belief should not stand in the way of research into what he said "may be the greatest medical breakthrough in our or any lifetime."

"It does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and the well-being of the many," he said.

President Bush has allowed limited federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, but in recent months, spurred by former first lady Nancy Reagan and calls from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, there has been growing momentum to broaden research and funding.

That has carried over to California where Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, qualified for the November ballot. If passed, tax free state bonds would be used to fund stem cell research at California’s medical research facilities.

"There’s clearly an immense amount of momentum behind stem cell research," said Fiona Hilton a spokeswoman for the initiative.


Paid for by YES on 71: Coalition for Stem Cell Research and Cures, #1260661
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