Solved by a verified expert:NATIONAL CENTER FOR CASE STUDY TEACHING IN SCIENCEJim and the Forgotten Embryos:A Case on Stem Cell-Based TherapybyMiriam Segura-TottenDepartment of BiologyPart I – Late Night NewsSandy was barely watching the reality show on TV. Instead, she was anxiously waiting for her son Jim to arrive homefor the weekend. As a freshman in college, Jim didn’t get a chance to come home often, so Sandy was thrilled tospend a few days with him. However, she did not appreciate the fact that he was going to be home so late. Jim knewhow worried she got whenever he drove home late at night. Her husband Matt, on the other hand, was completelyabsorbed in the TV show. That’s men for you, thought Sandy.The phone ring startled Sandy out of her thoughts.“Hello?” she answered in a high-pitched voice that surprised her.“Is this Mrs. Allison?” an unfamiliar voice replied.“Yes. Is something wrong?” Sandy asked, her heart beating in her throat.“I’m very sorry to tell you this over the phone ma’am, but your son Jim has been in a car accident. He is in stablecondition right now, but it would be best if you could get to the hospital as soon as possible.”Sandy didn’t remember the car ride to the hospital. Thankfully, her husband Matt kept his composure as he drove. Ittook all of Sandy’s concentration to make out the words the attending physician was saying.“The good news is that even though your son lost a lot of blood in the car accident, he is in stable condition at themoment. However, his spinal cord was injured at the T7 vertebra, and the resulting inflammation damaged preciousnerve cells in that area, cells that are essential for carrying electrical impulses to Jim’s legs.”The attending physician paused and swallowed. “In other words, your son is paralyzed from the chest down. We arenot sure that he will be able to walk again.”As shock and dread washed over her, Sandy had to hold on to Matt so she wouldn’t fall. The physician’s next wordscame to her as if from very far away.“We do believe that your son would be a very good candidate for an experimental treatment using injection of humanembryonic stem cells into the site of the damaged nerve cells. If you’d like, I can put you in touch with Dr. Gupta, thephysician who is leading the clinical trial.”Sandy could barely concentrate. She had so many questions to ask the doctors before she would even considersubjecting Jim to such a treatment.Questions1. What is a stem cell?2. How are embryonic stem cells different from other types of stem cells?3. Given their function, how do you think embryonic stem cells are used as a treatment for damaged cells?“Jim and the Forgotten Embryos” by Miriam Segura-TottenPage 1 NATIONAL CENTER FOR CASE STUDY TEACHING IN SCIENCEPart II – An Ethical DilemmaOver the next several days, Sandy, Matt, and Jim debated the possibility of an embryonic stem cell treatment. TheAllisons were conflicted about this decision because they were devout Christians who strongly opposed abortion, andthey had heard that embryonic stem cells came from aborted fetuses.Sandy brought this issue up with Dr. Gupta, the head investigator for the experimental stem cell study.“Doctor, we are excited about the possibility of a treatment that may enable Jim to walk again. However, we do notwant to harm other lives in the process of curing our son. Will this treatment result in the death of innocent lives?”Sandy asked Dr. Gupta.Questions1. Why is there controversy surrounding the therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells?2. What embryos are used as the source for embryonic stem cells? What would happen to these embryos if theywere not used in such treatments?3. Taking into account the information you provided for the last question, how would you answer Sandy’squestion to Dr. Gupta?“Jim and the Forgotten Embryos” by Miriam Segura-TottenPage 2 NATIONAL CENTER FOR CASE STUDY TEACHING IN SCIENCEPart III – Stem Cells from Forgotten Embryos“I’m glad you asked me that question, Mrs. Allison,” said Dr. Gupta. “Let me explain to you the source of the stemcells we would like to use to treat Jim. We take these cells from fertilized embryos left over from in vitro fertilizationprocedures. Basically, during the process of in vitro fertilization, many eggs are fertilized and only a few are ever used.The rest of the fertilized eggs, which at this point are considered embryos, sit in a freezer for many years. Some maybe used at a later date by the infertile couple undergoing treatment, while others may be donated to other infertilecouples. Still, many embryos sit in freezers until one day they are destroyed by incineration, either because the coupleno longer needs them or because they can no longer afford to pay for storage of these embryos.”Sandy sat up straighter as she pondered the information. “So basically the embryos you will use would most likely bedestroyed if you don’t use them?”“That is correct, Mrs. Allison. The embryos we use are donated by couples that no longer have a need for them.”“But the embryos will still be destroyed once you take the stem cells from them, right?” Sandy wanted to make sure shewasn’t missing any information about this procedure.“Once again, you are correct. They will die as a result of the procedure. However, given that they would have diedanyway, we like to think that these embryos may serve to save or change someone’s life. For example, the embryos wewould use to treat your son Jim may give him or others like him the ability to walk,” Dr. Gupta concluded.“I see what you mean…this is a lot to consider. It’s comforting to know that these cells are not from aborted embryos,or from embryos that might have otherwise lived a full life.” With that, Sandy thanked the doctor and walked back toJim’s hospital room.Questions1. If you were Sandy Allison, would you want your son Jim to undergo the embryonic stem cell treatment? Whyor why not?2. State two reasons for and against undergoing the stem cell treatment.•Licensed image in title block © krishnacreations –, ID#19010078. Case copyright held by the National Center for Case StudyTeaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Originally published February 2, 2012. Please see our usageguidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.“Jim and the Forgotten Embryos” by Miriam Segura-TottenPage 3