Last week I talked about the Kyoto University experiment that showed that certain chimps had much better memory skills than college students. This week I want to stay focused on recent life science experiments by looking at a sickle cell anemia experiment that has produced hope for many people struggling with this debilitating disease.
The premise of this experiment was to use new technology to create stem cells from ordinary skin cells, and then use these manufactured stem cells to treat sickle cell anemia in mice. The results are promising. This experimental treatment is proving to be an effective cure for sickle cell anemia in mice and other lab animals. However, right now this treatment is not suitable for humans because it has not been perfected and it occasionally causes tumors to develop. Once this stumbling block has been hurdled human testing may be authorized.
This experiment/news story is a good one to use to talk about science ethics as well as life science experimentation. This particular story is also a practical story to use because it deals with the ethical issues associated with stem cell experimentation. Because the stem cells were created from regular skin cells instead of being harvested from discarded embryos, the dilemma over whether it is morally acceptable is no longer an issue. However, you may want to discuss the drawbacks of using genetic engineering technology to treat and cure diseases and physical deformities.
Life science experiments are always controversial. When working on science fair projects that focus on controversial techniques or concepts you need to do your research and consult experts and science fair books.