Former first lady Nancy Reagan (search) endorsed human embryonic research Saturday night at a star-studded fund-raiser.

Such research is generally opposed by political conservatives and many anti-abortion groups because it involves the destruction of days-old human embryos. President Bush signed an executive order in 2001 limiting research to existing embryonic stem cell lines.

However, Reagan and others believe the use of stem cells taken from embryos could lead to cures for such illnesses as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease (search), which afflicts Reagan's husband, former President Ronald Reagan (search).

"Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him," she said. "Because of this I'm determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this."

The Republican former first lady became one of the first conservative public figures to support human embryo research when she first spoke in favor of it more than three years ago.

Reagan was introduced by actor Michael J. Fox (search), who suffers from Parkinson's disease (search), and was widely applauded by the Hollywood crowd.

"I think it's really unique, remarkable and singular to step forward and support this as she does," said singer James Taylor, who performed Saturday night at the benefit for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Taylor even pecked Reagan on the cheek at the end of the fund-raiser, which was expected to raise $2 million.