Michael J. Fox, the actor who left Spin City because of his struggle with Parkinson's disease, visited Capitol Hill for a news conference this Wednesday, July 13. Fox is urging Congress to pass a bill easing President George Bush's restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research.
Bush has limited funding to research on the 65 suitable stem-cell lines already in existence, and the bill in question would open funding for research involving 400,000 frozen embryos that were created for in vitro fertilization. If not used for stem-cell research, most of the embryos would be destroyed. The bill would not fund the creation of more embryos.
Fox has called the proposed legislation a "pro-living bill" and stated that "embryonic stem-cell research holds enormous promise. More federal funding and more lines are needed, or progress will stall." He also said that with his decision on the bill, Bush "has an opportunity to do something fantastic for the world."
Human stem cells, formed in the earliest stages of embryonic development, are unique in their ability to become one of 130 different types of human tissue. Researchers believe that stem-cell research may hold the key to cures for many kinds of diseases, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Fox is joined in his campaign by many other celebrities. Former first lady Nancy Reagan has been a longtime supporter of stem-cell research, along with actress Mary Tyler Moore, who suffers from diabetes and who visited Washington, DC this June to speak with a Senate committee regarding the issue. Dana Reeve, wife of the late actor Christopher Reeve, is also a champion of the bill. The spinal cord condition that kept her husband paralyzed is one of the maladies that could possibly be cured through stem-cell research.