Wellington film-making couple, three times Oscar winner,Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh have donated $500,000 (US$311,000) to the University of California’s research programme on human embryonic stem cells.

“We have lost close friends and relatives to cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and the level of personal suffering inflicted on patients and their families by these diseases is horrific,” Jackson said today.

“Stem cell therapy has the potential to treat a multitude of diseases and illnesses, which up until now have been labelled ‘incurable’.”

“It has the capacity to exponentially improve the quality of life for those who currently suffer from spinal cord injury, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and many other debilitating medical conditions.

“Continuing advances in stem cell medicine will change all of our lives for the better,” he said in a statement issued by the university.

The couple’s money will be used by neurobiologist Hans Keirstead to create two scholarships for students who will specialise in stemcell work.

The donation from Jackson and Walsh will establish the Bill and Joan Jackson Scholars Fund, named after Jackson’s parents, and support the stem cell research of two students for four years each.

Link [www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=204&ObjectID=10391442]