The Case of Eric, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and Stem Cell Research
Thirty-one-year-old Eric has begun to show signs of the debilitating and fatal neuromuscular disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Students follow Eric as he is examined by his physician and then a specialist, undergoes a series of tests, and eventually is given the devastating prognosis. He is also given the news that a group of prominent scientists has begun human trials with embryonic stem cell therapy, which may offer a possible cure for his condition, and that he can participate in the experiment if he wishes. Students research and then prepare oral presentations on the perspectives of a variety of experts Eric might wish to consult as he weighs the science and ethics of his decision.
- Learn about the two methods for isolating human embryonic/fetal stem cells: embryonic germ (EG) and embryonic stem (ES) cells.
- Understand the basic theory behind how ES or EG cells could be used to treat a disease like ALS.
- Gain knowledge of ALS, its pathology, and prognosis.
- Gather data from scientific sources and public information on embryonic stem cell therapy and research.
- Understand past and present politics (including research regulation and funding) of embryonic stem cell therapy.
- Understand what religious leaders, present Republican politicians, ALS experts, and stem cell scientists think about the ethics of embryonic stem cell research.
- Realize that some recent advances with rats (by the Gearhart lab) have made stem cell therapy for ALS patients more of a reality.
- Clearly express a position on a scientific ethical topic in a short oral presentation using PowerPoint and a short paper.
KeywordsStem cell research; embryonic stem cell; embryonic germ cell; primordial germ cell; pluripotent stem cell; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Lou Gehrig disease; neuromuscular disease; bioethics; George W. Bush
Topical AreasEthics, Policy issues, Social issues
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsDilemma/Decision, Role-Play, Journal Article, Student Presentations
Subject HeadingsBiology (General) | Cell Biology | Biotechnology |
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