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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Stem Cell Support Rising After Reagan's Death

Nearly 3 in 4 Americans Now Support More Funding for Stem Cell Research
WebMD Health News

June 16, 2004 -- Less than two weeks after former President Ronald Reagan's death, public support for stem cell research is already growing in response to Nancy Reagan's call for lifting federal restrictions on stem cell research.

The first public opinion survey after Reagan's death shows that 74% of Americans say they are more likely to support stem cell research in the wake of his death, including 79% of moderates, 62% of conservatives, and 62% of fundamentalist or evangelical Christians.

"The bottom line is that when roughly 3 of 4 Americans think Nancy Reagan is right in pressing the Bush White House to lift restrictions on stem cell research, what you have is a fundamental shift in the way average Americans look at this issue," says Civil Society Institute President Pam Solo.

The telephone survey of more than 1,000 adults was conducted June 10-23 by Opinion Research Corp. on behalf of the Results for America project of the nonprofit Civil Society Institute.

Reagan suffered from Alzheimer's disease before his death, and researchers believe stem cell research may be used to eventually develop new treatments and possibly even cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, type 1 diabetes, and spinal cord injuries.

Support Growing for Stem Cell Research

Embryonic stem cells are cells that can develop into any type of cell in the human body. The cells are extracted from donated frozen embryos in fertility clinics, and the extraction process destroys the embryo.

Stem cells can then reproduce on their own, creating what is called a line of stem cells for researchers to work with.

In August 2001, President George W. Bush restricted federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to stem cell lines created before that time. Research on stem cell lines created after that time cannot receive federal funding.

Researchers say public support for stem cell research has grown dramatically since then. When asked for their initial views on medical research using human embryos, a survey conducted in 2001 showed 48% of Americans supported it and 43% were opposed. This survey shows that margin has grown to 60% and 26%.

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