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Reeve: Fund embryonic stem cell research

Actor Christopher Reeve believes that embryonic stem cell research will allow him to walk again one day.

Stem cells are blank human cells that scientists think might be turned into any type of tissue, specifically tissue that might be used to repair -- in Reeve's case, for example -- damaged spinal cord cells.

Some scientists believe that stem cells from fertilized human eggs, known as embryos, hold the most promise for success.

"If you had the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) involved and everybody working together, I am positive in 10 years I'd be on my feet ... I would not be sitting here in a wheelchair," Reeve said.

Big Picture: Research avenue adds fuel to stem cell controversy 
Click here to learn how embryonic stem cells are harvested 

Reeve, who was paralyzed in a May 1995 horse-riding accident, has joined the debate in the United States over whether the federal government should fund research on stem cells from human embryos created by in-vitro fertilization. Many abortion opponents -- including Pope John Paul II -- also oppose using human embryos for research.

The decision is up to U.S. President George W. Bush, who met Monday with the pontiff in Italy.

There, the pope compared embryo research to euthanasia and infanticide. "A free and virtuous society, which America aspires to be, must reject practices that devalue and violate human life at any stage from conception until natural dead," the Pope said.

It was only recently that scientists began creating embryos specifically for stem cell research. Before that, most embryos for such experiments were fertilized eggs that parents decided not to use for pregnancy and otherwise would have been discarded.

While not directly responding to John Paul's comments, Reeve said that the issue is not about ethics. "You really don't have an ethical problem because you're actually saving lives by using cells that are going to the garbage," Reeve said. "I just don't see how that's immoral or unethical. I really don't."

In the near future, there is a chance that scientists might be able to obtain stem cells from less-controversial sources, such as umbilical cords. But some researchers say those kinds of cells might never be as medically useful as stem cells from human embryos.

CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report


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