Nancy Reagan, former first lady of the US, has been lobbying for a change in President Bush's policy on research into embryo stem cells The 81-year-old wife of former president Ronald Reagan has been 'obliquely but persistently campaigning' for federal funding of embryo stem cell research, according to a report in the New York Times (NYT) last week.
Ronald Reagan has Alzheimer's disease, one of many degenerative conditions that could eventually be treated using new therapies developed through research on embryo stem cells. Mrs Reagan, known for her loyalty to the Republican party, has become a 'stealth lobbyist' for such work, by discussing the issue with members of Congress, administration officials and scientists. Since 9 August 2001, federally-funded US researchers have only been permitted to work with human embryo-derived cells already in existence on that date. Earlier this year, President Bush called for a complete US ban on any form of cloning, including the use of cloned embryo stem cells to develop new disease treatments (also known as therapeutic cloning).
Through a friend, Nancy Reagan told the NYT that 'a lot of people who could be helped are not being helped'. In response, a White House spokesperson said that the president was confident that the decision he made last year strikes the right balance between moral and ethical responsibility and furthering scientific research.