MAPPING STEM CELL RESEARCH: TERRA INCOGNITA
2007, 64 or 90 Minutes
Purchase: $210 | Classroom Rental: $125
Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita puts a human face on the stem cell debate by following the work of Dr. Jack Kessler, a renowned expert in the field, as he searches for a cure to spinal cord injuries, and the breakthrough that will allow his injured daughter to walk again.
When Dr. Kessler was invited to head up the Neurology Department at Northwestern University, his focus was on using stem cells to help cure diabetes. However, soon after his appointment, his daughter Allison, then age 15, was injured in a skiing accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. In the moments following the accident, Dr. Kessler made the decision to change the focus of his research to begin working on a cure for spinal cord injuries using embryonic stem cells.
Through his work, the film tells the stories of families whose lives have been affected by spinal cord injuries, and the people working to alleviate their burdens. It shows the awe-inspiring, yet painstaking work undertaken by Dr. Kessler and his lab - the documentary tracks several dramatic experiments in which paralyzed mice regain some movement in their legs - while following his tireless efforts to raise awareness of the potential benefits of stem cell biology.
Representing a diverse array of voices, including scientists, doctors, patients, bioethicists, students, and religious leaders, this insightful documentary offers a revealing look behind the politics, the controversy, and the promise of embryonic stem cells.
Subjects & Collections
Festivals & Awards* Winner, Peabody Award, 2009
* An official selection of PBS' 2008 Independent Lens Series
ReviewsThree-and-a-Half Stars. “Highly recommended. Although the filmmaker’s sympathies clearly lie with those in favor of stem cell research, she seems genuinely driven to challenge misconceptions, while keeping a focus on the rigors of research and the potential benefits for people like Dr. Kessler’s daughter.” - Video Librarian
“While acknowledging the fears and strong feelings stem cell research engenders, this insightful program firmly supports continuing work in this highly controversial field. Including convincing arguments, this is helpful for teens presenting the pro side of the debate…. Viewers get a feel for the researchers’ painstaking steps, disappointments, and small successes.” - Booklist
“Mapping Stem Cell Research is successful for several reasons…. Ms. Finitzo brings together the detailed experiments of Dr. Kessler and his graduate students working to find a cure for spinal cord injuries, and artfully juxtaposes them together with the bioethical issues prevalent in the media and the emotional personal stories of two beautiful young women who have spinal cord injuries—one of whom is Dr. Kessler’s only daughter…. The film also provides a fascinating look at the intricacies of medical research… The tangible frustrations and joys of scientific experiments come through vividly. The film also shines at bringing about the human emotions that color everyone’s existence, no matter the profession, the religion, or the political stance.” - Educational Media Reviews Online
"Neither scientific facts nor ethical complexity nor emotional drama was sacrificed in this documentary about a neurologist who took up stem-cell research after his beloved daughter suffered a spinal injury." - The Peabody Awards