During a fund-raiser last Saturday night, Nancy Reagan, America's former first lady, endorsed human embryonic research.

As Mrs. Reagan is a conservative, her endorsement goes against the general opinion of American conservatives who tend to be anti stem-cell research and anti-abortion - the argument being that stem-cell research involves the destruction of a human embryo.

President Bush signed an executive order limiting research to existing embryonic stem cell lines, he signed it in 2001.

Nancy Reagan believes stem cells taken from embryos may lead to cures for Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease and many other illnesses. Her husband has Alzheimer's Disease.

Talking about her husband and his Alzheimer's Disease, Nancy Reagan said "Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him. Because of this I'm determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this."

Nancy Reagan first spoke favourably about stem cell research about three years ago.

Talking in front of a Hollywood audience last Saturday night she was widely applauded. Next to her was Michael J Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease. The fund raiser is expected to raise about $2 million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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