Beginning a five-day trip to Israel to study advances in spinal treatment, paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve appealed Monday for urgent research to help victims of injuries and illness.
Reeve gained fame portraying "Superman" in movies in the 1990s but was paralyzed from the neck down in a riding accident in 1995. Since then, he has campaigned for stepped up research into treatment of spinal cord injuries.
"It's important that scientists realize the sense of urgency, that everyday counts for patients," Reeve told Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, with reporters in the room.
Reeve urged scientists not to be deterred by the size of the challenge of rehabilitating badly injured people. "There have been many times when things were thought to be impossible, and now it's routine," he said, noting test-tube babies, heart transplants and walks on the moon.
Shalom said that Israeli scientists are working on solutions for disabled people. "We hope together to bring them new hope and a better future," he said.
Israel is a leader in the field of spinal injury treatment, as well as stem-cell research, which has been limited in some locations because it often involves the use of human embryos as well as placentas.
Israel has no law regulating embryonic stem cell research. In a statement, Reeve said he "has been very interested in the projects Israel's researchers have been working on in recent years."
The U.S. government has limited stem-cell research because of the embryo issue, but Reeve has been critical of the official policy. In April, he said social and religious conservatives "have had undue influence on the critical debate."
During his trip, Reeve, 50, will meet injured Israelis, including Elad Wassa, a 25-year-old Ethiopian immigrant paralyzed from the chest down in a Palestinian suicide bombing in May 2002. Reeve has corresponded with Wassa.