Great promise in a petri dish
Jayanti Roy

Hope... in Vitro
by Shelley Chawla, MD and Dianne Wilson.
Mannat Productions. Pages 209. $ 14.99.

Stem cells are the newest miracle of science. These are found in all multi-celled organisms and can replace and repair damaged tissue or organ. This fact has enormous significance, as we can now look forward to treating ailments which were till now thought to be having no cure: acute leukemia, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer, spinal cord injuries to name a few.

However, research on stem cell has been mired in a lot of controversies in the US and other countries since one of the ways to harvesting stem cells is embryo destruction. This has led to denial of government funding for full-fledged research in the area and has become a live issue in the political circles as well. The authors have woven the story around this ethical debate.

Senator Bob Moreland is a staunch supporter of freezing the stem cell research. A lot of people are suffering due to his rigid stance. But life brings him at a juncture where his familyís only hope is the potential of stem cell treatment. The book gives an account of the pitiable conditions of such patients and the issue of the misery of their caregivers whose lives are intertwined with the heath status of the patients.

The effort to spread awareness about stem cells and their unexplored potential in preventing human suffering is fully achieved through the novel. Another aspect boldly taken up in the novel that will bring warmth to every Indian heart is that of India being at the forefront of stem cell research and slated to be a global leader in this field.

However, the storyline is too predictable and there is no blending of subplots with the main plot, which sticks out as odd growths. While outlining the physical and mental agony of the patients and travails of their family members, the authors tend to be repetitive. Some sequences are over emphasized, though they have little significance for the forward flow of the story while many interesting areas are scantily sketched.

In 2001, President George Bush declared sanctioning Human Embryo Stem Cell (HESC) research similar to sanctioning cannibalism and murder of a potential life. But with the new alternatives of stem cells now being harvested from a personís blood, fat cells, hair follicle, etc., the debate about the ethical issue in stem cell research will soon be a thing of the past. The book is going to be turned into a movie very soon.