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Mary Tyler Moore's Mission

Mary Tyler Moore is one of America's most beloved television stars. But, besides acting, she has devoted much of her time to something close to her heart.

For more than 20 years, she has served as the international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Monday morning, she was interviewed by The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith about the foundation's 2005 Children's Congress, which begins Tuesday, June 21. The first JDRF Children's Congress was held in 1999 and since then, it's been held every two years.

Moore is attending a Senate hearing in Washington with 150 children (ages 2-17) with type 1 diabetes. They represent 50 states and the District of Columbia. As official delegates, they will each tell their personal story about living with the disease and urge continued federal funding of diabetes research to find a cure.

In addition, Moore is asking the Bush administration to expand its policy on embryonic stem cell research.

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"Juvenile" diabetes is no longer the common term for the disease. Increasingly, it is being referred to as type 1 diabetes.

That type of diabetes, explains Moore, "generally means that the pancreas has shut down pretty much completely, and the patient is reliant on insulin, which has to be injected. In type 2, or obesity onset, or aging onset, the patient produces some insulin cells, and they can be stimulated with oral medication.

"The end result, however, is that the complications of this disease are the same for both," Moore says.

Moore was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was in her early 20s, "and I, like so many diabetics, have lived with some pretty frightening…problems. They can be diabetic neuropathy, meaning that the eyes don't function as well as they should. I've had laser treatments on them. I'm doing much better now."

Other problems can include kidney damage, amputation, and heart disease.

Once every two years, Moore and the young people get together in Washington. This year, she says, "the young people will testify…before Sen. Susan Collins' Committee (the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs). And we will be pleading for more stem cells.

"Three years ago, I think it was, President Bush gave some to the public, but no more, he said, after this date. Well, it turns out that…most of those stem cells were contaminated and, therefore, useless. And we are asking him to change.

"Stem cell research is really the result of a woman who wants to have a baby and has not been able to conceive. So she has in vitro fertilization. Her eggs are fertilized and planted in a Petri dish, then implanted into her womb."

There is no doubt that this is an issue steeped in controversy. As she pleads her case, does she feel as if she will be heard?

"Yes, I do," says Moore, "because I want to make sure that people understand what this is about. One egg will plant itself, and the rest -- sometimes five or six -- will be useless. And most of them are destroyed. So we are asking merely to have the eggs that will be destroyed to experiment with."

Of course, co-anchor Smith could not let Moore go without asking her about her acting career. Up next for her is a Christmas movie that she is making for CBS.

"And we are going to, at the end of July, be filming in New Orleans, Louisiana," she adds. "It's going to be hot!"

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