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Texas names stem cell job for Willie Nelson

Country star helped to raise money for university's research center
/ Source: The Associated Press

Country singer Willie Nelson is making a name for himself in a new field — stem cell research.

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas is planning to establish the Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship in Stem Cell Research. An official announcement is planned later this week, a university official said.

"That's a nice thing," Nelson told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I think everybody should do what they can to call more attention to that."

Nelson and his wife received the honor for helping to raise about $250,000 for the stem cell program at a March 4 concert in Grand Prairie, the Austin American-Statesman reported in Saturday's editions.

The first Nelson professor will be Dr. Eric Olson, who chairs the medical center's molecular biology department. He described the honor as "pretty cool."

The year-old program isn't now researching embryonic stem cells, a source of controversy.

Olson said the school focuses on mouse stem cells to learn more about stem cells and "how their properties can be exploited to treat human diseases."

Nelson, whose hits include "On the Road Again," "Always on My Mind" and "Whiskey River," has homes in Austin and Hawaii.