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topic 11 and 12

Technological advances have made it possible for scientists and practitioners to expand life expectancy and improve quality of life. Some of these advances are not without controversy. One such area that has generated ethical debate is that of stem cell research.

In this conference, you will explore what stem cell research is, and the controversy surrounding it. Stem cell research is an excellent example of the interdisciplinary impact of technology on society. Beyond the philosophical questions raised regarding the nature of human life, stem cell research also generates debate at the policy level.

1) Before you read the following, record what your current understanding of stem cells is.

2) After reviewing the learning resources for this discussion topic, respond to the following questions (use your own words):

  • What are stem cells?
  • Why are stem cells considered important? What are they capable of doing?
  • Explain the difference between adult and embryonic stem cells.
  • What are the controversies inherent in stem cell research?
  • Does the information in this discussion topic alter your original ideas about stem cells?

Your response to these items should be 2-3 paragraphs in length in total. In order to receive full credit, remember to respond substantively to at least 2 classmates throughout the week. (****Provide two opinions about the topic in 1 paragraph for 2 classmates*****)

As with all controversial issues, thoughtful discussion is encouraged, but it is important to be respectful of the opinions of others and to express yourself in ways that are not inflammatory or deliberately provocative.

Topic 12

The average life expectancy (LE) in 1900 was 47 years of age. In 2008, the average LE in the US was 80 years, and by 2020, the US Census Bureau projects that the average LE will be 79.5 years. Life expectancy in the US differs by sex and race. Women live about 5 years longer than men, and whites live about 4 years longer than African-Americans. (Source:

At the population level, increased life expectancy has been attributed to two major factors related to technology. Public health measures such as vaccinations and water treatment have added 25-30 years to our life expectancy while medical advances have added about 5 years. These measures have significantly reduced the incidence of infant mortality and allowed people to be healthier well into their 70’s, 80’s and beyond. (Source:

Part 1: Take the following online survey:

Take note of the questions being asked in the survey and consider the factors that might impact your longevity. (NOTE: The survey does ask you to provide an email address and create a password as the calculator is regularly updated to account for new research findings. If you have strenuous objections to providing your email address you can create a dummy account through a free email provider or contact the instructor for an alternate writing assignment. )

Part 2: At the level of the individual, genetic and environmental factors help to predict how long a person will live. For this discussion topic, review the following (embedded in the discussion topic #12 area):

1) (article) Zeliadt, N. (July 1, 2010). Live long and proper: Genetic factors associated with increased longevity identified. Scientific American. Retrieved from:

2) (video) DeGrey, A. (2009). The economics of immortality. Retrieved from (7:17)

3) (short story) Vonnegut, K. (1953). The big trip up yonder. Retrieved from:

Respond to the following questions:

  • Share your survey results – what is your predicted life expectancy? What factors contributed to your longevity (or lack thereof)?
  • Briefly summarize 1-2 points made in eachof the resources in Part 2. Limit your summary to 1-3 sentences per resource. Your summaries need not be exhaustive – just tell us what you found to be the “take home” message for each resource.
  • What are the economic, sociological, psychological, and healthcare implications of an aging population that could live indefinitely?
  • What role does technology play in health across the lifespan? How does it keep us from being healthy? How does it promote health? (If you are having trouble answering this question, the optional resources below may be helpful)
  • How long do you think we should live? Should we live indefinitely or should there be limits? Justify your response.

In order to receive full credit for this conference, remember to respond substantively to at least 2 classmates throughout the week.

Optional additional resources that may help you to answer conference questions (or find some resources of your own!):

Berkley (2003) – Are biotech foods safe to eat? (

Centers for Disease Control (2011) – Four specific health behaviors contribute to a longer life ( )

Dye (2012) – Living longer: Increasing lifespan may be in our control(

Olshansky et al (2005) – A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century (

Giuliano (2011) – Public health longevity developments – focus on foods (

Health Canada (2008) – website on biotechnology and food in Canada ( )

Meer & Misner (2008) – Biotechnology and food( )

Milstrey (2011) – Longevity technology will transform mankind(

Shah (2007) – Public health meets mobile technology ( )

Virginia Assistive Technology System (n.d.) – Assistive technology and aging(


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