5 Spot | Jessica Gerstle, director of the film The Accidental Advocate 

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When a bike accident paralyzed ophthalmologist Claude Gerstle from the neck down, he and his daughter Jessica, a Dateline NBC journalist, began delving into the highly politicized science of stem-cell research. Jessica then directed the film The Accidental Advocate, to be shown Thursday, Nov. 6, 7 p.m. at The Leonardo, 209 E. 500 South. Special guests include Jessica Gerstle and U of U’s geneticist Mario Capecchi. We asked Jessica Gerstle to list common misconceptions about stem-cell research:



We don’t need embryonic stem-cell research. Scientists can use other cells.
nElias Zerhouni, the former head of the National Institutes of Health, testified that embryonic stem cells are the gold standard for answering basic questions about a cell: What makes it live, die, develop into a specialized cell type or become cancer? Scientists will only know if other cells behave “embryonic-like” if they can be compared to embryonic stem cells.



Embryonic stem-cell research is about abortion.
nIt is not. The research happens in a petri dish; it does not involve a woman or her womb. As Sen. Orrin Hatch says in the film, he’ll put his pro-life record up against anyone’s, and it is pro-life to support this research to try and alleviate devastating diseases and help those suffering.



The research opens up the possibilities for human cloning.
nCloning research, or somatic cell nuclear transfer, makes copies of cells, not people.



All the research can be done by the private sector.
nThe federal government is the largest investor in basic biomedical research and for the NIH to be sidelined is a terrible waste. We risk losing the next generation of young scientists or seeing the research go overseas.



We already have cures with adult stem cells.
nAdult cells have been used to restore the blood and immune system for a variety of diseases, and treatments have been available for decades. If doctors cured everything with adult stem cells, would we be having this debate?

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More by Eric S. Peterson

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