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January 11 , 2008

Expert Advisory: Putting a Human Face on Stem Cell Research

Penn School of Medicine Researcher Available for Comment on Stem Cell Program to Air on WHYY-TV

PHILADELPHIA – Jonathan A. Epstein, MD, Chairman of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and Co-director of the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine, participated in a panel discussion following the WHYY-TV pre-screening of “Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita,” in December.

Delving into one of the hot button political issues for 2008, the film describes the personal experience of stem cell researcher Jack Kessler of Northwestern University when his daughter lost the use of her legs in a skiing accident. National airing of the film starts on January 15 and is slated to air on WHYY-TV 12 at 10:00 PM EST on Thursday January 17 (

“Touching on issues such as stem-cell research in film in a personal way helps bring understanding to a difficult and complicated topic and puts a human face on the need for research,” says Epstein.

When Kessler was invited to head up the Neurology Department at Northwestern, his focus was on using stem cells to treat the neurological complications of diabetes. However, soon after his move to Chicago, his daughter, Allison, then age 15, was injured in a skiing accident and 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 looking for a cure for spinal cord injuries using embryonic stem cells. The film follows his alternately frustrating and exhilarating research, as well as two young women whose lives were devastatingly altered by spinal cord injuries.

Penn’s Epstein specializes in exploring the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular development, especially their implications for understanding and treating human disease. Epstein is also the William Wikoff Smith Chair in Cardiovascular Research and the scientific director of the Penn Cardiovascular Institute. He practices medicine in the cardiac intensive care unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Veteran Administration Hospital.

Dr. Epstein will be available for comment on the film. Please contact Karen Kreeger to set up an interview.


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