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Stem cell research gains support in the US after death of Ronald Reagan
Support for stem cell research has been boosted in the US as a result of the death of former US President Ronald Reagan. Reagan, aged 93, died on 5 June from Alzheimer’s, after a ten-year battle with the disease. As a result, patient groups and US senators are announcing their support for loosening the restrictions on stem cell research put in place by President Bush. A majority of senators, 58, sent a letter asking for a change in policy to the White House soon after President Reagan’s death. Nancy Reagan had made her support for the research clear in comments made publicly last month. There have been no moves by the White House to respond to the increased pressure; officials continue to state that the policy is fair and that research that falls outside of federal policy can continue in the private sector.
While the increased support for stem cell research is welcomed, some experts warn that a treatment for Alzheimer’s may be slow in coming, while treatments for Parkinson’s and diabetes may be realised more quickly. Alzheimer’s is a very complex disease, involving billions of nerve cells, and the process of cellular replacement of the damaged cells will be difficult. As Lawrence S.B. Goldstein, an expert from the University of California at San Diego, stated in the Washington Post, “We don’t even know what are the best cells to replace initially.” The Alzheimer’s Society acknowledges that Alzheimer’s patients may not be the first to benefit from new treatments discovered by this science. Their web site notes, “In the short to medium term, the benefits of further stem cell research may be to strengthen our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and use this information to develop further treatments for Alzheimer’s.”