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More MS news articles for January 2003

Actor Reeve says stem cell research inevitable

2003-01-29 11:55:49 -0400
By Victoria Tait
Reuters Health

Disabled "Superman" star Christopher Reeve said Wednesday that Washington's strict limits on stem cell research will eventually be overtaken by support from individual American states.

Reeve told Reuters by telephone that he expects the administration of President Bush to remain opposed to the research, which he maintains could free disabled people such as himself from the confines of their wheelchairs.

He said individual US states would, one by one, follow the lead of California, which passed a law in September allowing therapeutic cloning--which experts believe could help repair spinal injuries and cure Parkinson's and other degenerative diseases.

"Once that happens in about a half a dozen states with a vital research community and a vital pharmaceutical industry, a momentum will have been created that the federal government probably won't be able to stop," Reeve said.

Therapeutic cloning differs from reproductive cloning, which seeks to create a cloned human being. With therapeutic cloning, scientists hope to use an adult patient's cells to produce a cloned embryo from which stem cells can be harvested. In theory, these stem cells could be used to replace the patient's diseased or damaged tissue without triggering immune system rejection.

But some groups, including anti-abortion conservatives, oppose the destruction of human embryos for any reason and President Bush agrees with them.

In his State of the Union message Tuesday, Bush called for a law "against all human cloning."

Reeve, 50, played the title role in the 1978 hit film "Superman" and three sequels. He was thrown from a horse in 1995, an accident which left him wheelchair-bound and on a respirator.

But he has been very active since and is a self-appointed champion for one of the most controversial areas of science.

"One thing you learn when you're forced to sit still, and I've been sitting still for seven years, is patience," he said in Sydney, where he is raising money for research.

The government of New South Wales paid Reeve a fee of A$135,000 to go to Sydney for a spinal injury forum, a fund-raising dinner and other engagements.

Critics say the money would have been better used for research.

The actor, set to guest-star next month in a television version of "Superman" called "Smallville," is an active campaigner for nuclear transfer, or therapeutic cloning.

Reeve emphasizes that the practice, which can involve the use of stem cells from adults or embryos, should not be confused with reproductive cloning, which he says should be criminalized.

He said Singapore, Switzerland and Britain were among countries developing legal and economic environments attractive to pharmaceutical companies and scientists.

Copyright © 2003 Reuters Limited