• Dr. Jack Kessler giving a presentation on stem cell research

    Dr. Jack Kessler giving a presentation on stem cell research


The Film

The debate over stem cell research has become more heated and nuanced with recent scientific advances and legislative actions. A variety of questions have entered the national dialogue: What is the public need for this research? Is the use of embryonic stem cells morally defensible? Who will have access to these treatments? Who will own the results of scientific breakthroughs?

Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita puts a human face on this controversial subject. When neurologist Dr. Jack Kessler’s daughter injured her spine in a skiing accident, he turned his energies toward finding a method to repair damaged spinal cords, refocusing his research on developing a therapy using embryonic stem cells to regenerate the damaged parts of the nervous system. His research has taken him into a politically sensitive realm in which Catholic and fundamentalist Christian views about the beginning of life exert a powerful influence.

Responding to the views of the majority of Americans, Congress passed the Stem Cell Research and Enhancement Act of 2005, which was vetoed by President Bush. Another bill supporting stem cell research made its way though Congress in 2007 and also received a presidential veto. The discussion and debate continue as individual states pass laws affecting stem cell research, while other countries move ahead in this field.

Through the personal experiences of the Kesslers, lab researchers and others affected by spinal cord injury, Mapping Stem Cell Research follows the evolving interplay between the promise of new medical advancements and the tension between modern science and religion.

The Filmmakers

  1. Maria FinitzoProducer/Director
  2. Justine NaganProducer