Your Life your connection to The Boston Globe

Romney's wife supports 'ethical' stem cell work

LITTLETON -- The wife of Governor Mitt Romney, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, said she favors stem cell research if it is done ''morally and ethically."

Stem cell research may be the way to find a cure for multiple sclerosis in her lifetime, Ann Romney said Monday during a news conference in which she expressed support for a National Multiple Sclerosis Society fund-raising walk next month on Cape Cod.

''I am in favor of stem cell research and I think it can be done morally and ethically," she said. ''I think we need to learn more about it."

The governor, a Republican, also supports stem cell research.

Stem cell research has become an issue in the presidential campaign. Three years ago, President Bush limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to the 78 stem cell lines in existence on Aug. 9, 2001. His Democratic challenger, Senator John F. Kerry, has promised to give scientists more freedom.

The religious right opposes the scientific work in which the culling of stem cells kills the embryos, equating that with abortion.

Scientists and proponents, including former first lady Nancy Reagan and 58 Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, say embryonic stem cells have the ability to turn into all the cell types found in the body and have the potential to repair or replace cells destroyed by disease and provide cures for diabetes, Alzheimer's, and other diseases.

''I was very sick in 1998 when I was diagnosed," Ann Romney said at Larkspur Farm in Littleton, where she rides her horse as part of her therapy. ''I was pretty desperate, pretty frightened and very, very sick. It was tough at the beginning, just to think, this is how I'm going to feel for the rest of my life."

Romney is in remission and credits intravenous steroids with halting the progression of her disease, but other therapies have helped as well.

''There is huge merit in both Eastern and Western medicine, and I've taken a little bit from both," she said, including reflexology, acupuncture, and craniosacral therapy.