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Stem cell research extends to high schoolers

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Four River Falls High School students spent three days in Madison studying stem cells under the guidance of top scientists in the field.

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Out of 22 applicants, Nate Powell, Sami Nelson, Birgitte Nielsen and Will Johnson were chosen to attend the science camp based on their scores on a 25-point quiz and an essay on why they wanted to go on the trip. Teachers selected the four students with the top combined scores.

Following are excerpts from each student's essay. At the camp, every essay was judged again. Camp leaders awarded the top two with grant awards. Nate Powell, 18, received $50 for having written the second-place essay. Twenty-one total students from rural Wisconsin schools attended the camp.

Look in the Aug. 7 print edition of the Journal for the full story, which includes comments from each student and the teacher who accompanied them.

Nate Powell:

Stem cell research raises many ethical questions for some. Is the embryo the beginning of human life? Does a person have the right to donate or sell an embryo? If we can alter some aspects of an unborn baby, should we do so? I think everyone would like to have a cure for cancer or make a paralyzed person walk again. It's important to understand stem cell research before making assumptions on where to draw the ethical line. I don't think research should be stopped because there's a possibility of learning too much.

...

First learn, understand and test and then create laws that protect any unethical ways that the discoveries can be used.... Many people jump to conclusions without a thorough understanding. Discoveries should not be halted because of some possibility of abuse from such discoveries. That's where laws are created that can make the positive discoveries legal and the negative discoveries illegal.

...

I think stem cell research opens a lot of doors in the medical field and a whole new future in the world of science and medicine. Being able to cure an unborn child with a particular birth defect, having a paralyzed person walk again, giving life to a person dying of leukemia are all possibilities with stem cell research. It's the new frontier in medicine and it's just waiting to be explored.

Sami Nelson:

Stem cell research and technology is on the brink of being the next medical revolution and becoming mainstream for treatment methods. Stem cell technology presents an entirely new way to treat, and possibly cure, diseases we once thought were untreatable.... Since 1998 and the first successful culturing of the world's first human embryonic stem cells, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been the authoritative leader in the fields of stem cell research and regenerative medicine.

...

It has been suspected by scientists that in the future, stem cells may become the basis for treating diseases such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and heart disease. This possibility makes it imperative that the study of stem cells be the scientific community's priority. As a future member of the medical field, I feel it is essential that I attend this information forum that I may begin to understand and comprehend this vast and innovative field.

Will Johnson:

I do not plan to enter the sciences as a career, but I believe that it is important to gain experiences and education in all areas, especially the sciences. A person never knows what he will discover when he tries something new. The stem cell research camp is a chance to broaden my horizons as well as discover new possibilities I have not considered.

...

The United States government denies public funding for the development of new embryonic stem cell lines, providing only for research on existing stem cell lines. Research and development are vital to a nation's capacity to grow and prosper. It is imperative that the U.S. (and Wisconsin) remain a leader in this field, which not only brings the hope for treatment of debilitating diseases, but also the economic advantages of a lucrative and growing field.

Birgitte Nielsen:

I enjoy learning about the human body; how it evolves and responds to the variety of stimuli in its surrounding environment. Understanding anatomy and physiology is more than just knowing how humans digest food or how the muscles and joints move. It also involves the biochemistry of cells.... At this point my understanding of the biology of the human body and its workings is very limited, but I want to expand my knowledge to better understand who and what we are as human beings.

...

By attending this camp and experiencing the lab work and experiments first hand, I will be able to gain more evidence and knowledge about stem cell research. This evidence will provide a wider view for me to use in developing a well-educated and fact-supported stand on the ethical issues involved in stem cell research.

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