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Consider the Uses of Stem Cells

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Image of a human embryo

The alien lookalike above is actually a picture of an embryo at around six weeks old! A zygote is formed when an egg is fertilised by a sperm. After fertilisation, the zygote starts to divide, it's now called an embryo. When the embryo reaches the eight-cell stage all the cells are identical to each other and have the ability to become any type of cell. They're embryonic stem cells. These can stay as stem cells or become differentiated (specialised) to become another type of cell such as a muscle cell, red blood cell or a nerve cell. Sometimes you will find adult stem cells among the differentiated cells-these can become differentiated later on. 

Image showing uses of stem cells

Function of stem cells

Our chromosomes have thousands of genes that can code for many proteins. We don’t need all of these genetic codes to be active all of the time in our body cells so they're switched off. This way the cell only produces the proteins it needs to function.

Specialised cells produce specific proteins because the genes coding for these proteins are activated or switched on. Embryonic stem cells are able to differentiate into any cell type. This is because any of the genes in their chromosomes are able to be switched on. 

Stem cells are important for many reasons. In the embryo, stem cells will develop into the whole body of the organism, including all of the organs such as the heart, lung, skin and other tissues and cells. In some adult tissues, such as bone marrow, adult stem cells are used to replace cells that are lost through normal wear and tear, injury or disease. 

Uses of stem cells

The fact that stem cells can undergo cell division and become differentiated to any cell type makes stem cells really interesting to Scientists. Potential new treatments to replace cells lost to injury and disease and research may help develop alternatives to organ transplantation and the effects of new drugs. 

Embryonic stem cells can be used in research to help scientists develop new cells to replace damaged or diseased cells. The stem cells could be injected into damaged organs to rebuild the tissues. This would reduce the need for organ transplants. The stem cells would need to have the same genes as the patient, otherwise, they would be rejected by the patient’s immune system. They would need to be clones. The DNA of an embryo cell can be replaced with the DNA from a patient’s cell. The embryo produces stem cells containing the patient’s genes. The cells will not be rejected, so immune-suppressing drugs are not needed. This process is called therapeutic cloning.

Risks

There are some risks involved in stem cell treatment:

  • there's a risk of infections from the operations involved or from infected stem cells. 
  • Due to uncontrolled cell division tumours may form.
  • Damage to organs- stem cells implanted into damaged tissue may move to healthy areas and cause damage to those areas.
  • Immune rejection- when the persons own immune system rejects the stem cells from another person and white blood cells destroy them.

Ethical issues

There are different types of issues depending on the type of cells involved. Often with embryonic stem cells and therapeutically-cloned stem cells, the issue of using embryo's can be a sensitive topic. Some peoples religion or personal beliefs view the embryo as representing life and should only be used to create a baby. In science obtaining a balanced view is important and often there is no one correct answer. 

Stem cells are not only found in animals, but plants too. Let's find out more below.

Image of plants meristem regions

In plant cells, cell division only happens in certain areas called meristems. Meristems are found at the tips of roots and shoots and in between the xylem and the phloem tissues. The cells in the meristem can divide over and over again to produce non-specialised cells. Some of these cells continue to divide, allowing the plant to grow taller and wider throughout its life.

Other non-specialised cells that are produced at the meristem can develop into any type of specialised plant cell and go on to form phloem, xylem, leaves and flowers. This activity contributes to plant growth and development.

Like with human stem cells, plant meristem cells have many uses too. For example, they can be used to produce clones of plants very quickly and economically. Also, plants that have special features such as being disease resistant or frost resistant can be cloned to produce lots of crops for example for farmers. Another use is to protect rare plant species from extinction by cloning them.

In the following activity, you will consider the functions and uses of stem cells.

 

Stem cell treatment has many potential uses. Which of the following can be used to accurately complete the sentence below? Select more than one answer.

Image showing uses of stem cells

 Stem cells have the potential to be used...

to treat chickenpox

to replace cells lost through disease

to create organs for transplant

to replace burned tissue

A cell that will switch on specific genes to become differentiated is known as a... complete the sentence below by typing two words.

Image of egg and sperm cells

When an egg is fertilised by a sperm, it will start dividing where it forms an embryo. It will reach the eight-cell stage. What is important about the eight-cell stage of an embryo? Fill in the blanks to answer the question.

Compare the similarities and differences between plant and animal stem cells. Select one or more answers in each row.

 Animal Stem CellPlant Stem Cell
Some stem cells remain unspecialised
Stem cells are found in embryo’s umbilical cord and bone marrow
Stem cells found in meristems
Stem cells already differentiated are no longer able to change/specialise again
The two daughter cells are separated by a cell membrane
The two daughter cells are separated by a cell plate that goes on to form a cell wall
Stem cells divide by mitosis to produce two daughter cells
Stem cells divide to form identical cells

Stem cells have lots of uses in medical treatment. Link the potential cells with their uses. 

Image showing uses of stem cells

Column A

Column B

Nerve cells
Damage caused by a heart attack
Heart muscle cells
Diabetes
Insulin-secreting cells
Some kinds of blindness
Skin cells
Burns and ulcers
Retina cells
Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries

Image of a plants meristem region

Scientists have invested a lot of time researching plant meristems. 

Why are scientists so interested in plant meristems? Select more than one answer.

 

Scientists just want to know everything

Plants can be cloned quickly

It is cheaper to clone plants using meristem cells

Rare species of plant can be cloned and protected from extinction

Stem cells can be used in medical treatment. One of these processes is known as therapeutic cloning. Describe this process by matching up the sentences below.

Column A

Column B

Stem cells could be injected into damaged organs t...
...therapeutic cloning
The stem cells would need to have the same genes a...
...With the DNA from a patient’s cell
The DNA of an embryo cell can be replaced...
...This would reduce the need for organ transplant...
The embryo produces stem cells containing the pati...
...Otherwise they would be rejected by the patient...
This process is called...
...The cells will not be rejected so immune-suppre...

There are risks involved when using stem cells for treatment. Select two risks below.

New cells will be made to replace damaged cells

Infection from operations

Stem cells rebuild tissues in damaged organs

Tumours may form because of uncontrolled cell division

Why is the use of embryonic stem cells controversial? Fill in the blanks below.

New cells will be made to replace damaged cells

Infection from operations

Stem cells rebuild tissues in damaged organs

Tumours may form because of uncontrolled cell division

There are two types of stem cells, embryonic and adult stem cells. What are some of the differences between the two types of cells? Select one answer in each row.

  • Question 1

Stem cell treatment has many potential uses. Which of the following can be used to accurately complete the sentence below? Select more than one answer.

Image showing uses of stem cells

 Stem cells have the potential to be used...

CORRECT ANSWER
to replace cells lost through disease
to create organs for transplant
to replace burned tissue
EDDIE SAYS
Stem cells can develop into many different cell types so they have the potential to be used in research to help scientists develop new cells to replace damaged or diseased cells.
  • Question 2

A cell that will switch on specific genes to become differentiated is known as a... complete the sentence below by typing two words.

CORRECT ANSWER
stem cell
stem cells
EDDIE SAYS
Stem cells will switch on genes when they are needed to provide a specific protein. Embryonic stem cells are able to differentiate into any cell type because any of their genes are able to be switched on.
  • Question 3

Image of egg and sperm cells

When an egg is fertilised by a sperm, it will start dividing where it forms an embryo. It will reach the eight-cell stage. What is important about the eight-cell stage of an embryo? Fill in the blanks to answer the question.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Embryonic stem cells are super important. At the eight-cell stage, all of the cells are identical and can become differentiated or they can stay as stem cells. The stem cells support the development of the embryo by differentiating into nerve cells or muscle cells for example.
  • Question 4

Compare the similarities and differences between plant and animal stem cells. Select one or more answers in each row.

CORRECT ANSWER
 Animal Stem CellPlant Stem Cell
Some stem cells remain unspecialised
Stem cells are found in embryo’s umbilical cord and bone marrow
Stem cells found in meristems
Stem cells already differentiated are no longer able to change/specialise again
The two daughter cells are separated by a cell membrane
The two daughter cells are separated by a cell plate that goes on to form a cell wall
Stem cells divide by mitosis to produce two daughter cells
Stem cells divide to form identical cells
EDDIE SAYS
This is a quick way to review similarities and differences between animal and plant stem cells before an exam, it's especially useful for the extended response questions.
  • Question 5

Stem cells have lots of uses in medical treatment. Link the potential cells with their uses. 

Image showing uses of stem cells

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Nerve cells
Parkinson’s disease and spinal ...
Heart muscle cells
Damage caused by a heart attack
Insulin-secreting cells
Diabetes
Skin cells
Burns and ulcers
Retina cells
Some kinds of blindness
EDDIE SAYS
If scientists are able to produce different types of cells from stem cells they may be able to use them to treat a variety of diseases and disorders. For example, by producing insulin-secreting cells in patients, they will no longer have type 1 diabetes.
  • Question 6

Image of a plants meristem region

Scientists have invested a lot of time researching plant meristems. 

Why are scientists so interested in plant meristems? Select more than one answer.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Plants can be cloned quickly
It is cheaper to clone plants using meristem cells
Rare species of plant can be cloned and protected from extinction
EDDIE SAYS
Although it's true scientists do want to learn about everything, they are interested in meristems because there are quite a few benefits to humans. Because of their meristems, plants can be cloned quickly and cheaply. This is really useful especially in countries affected by famine. Plants with special features like disease resistance can also be cloned. This will be particularly useful for crop plants. Also, any plants that are rare can be protected from extinction by producing more of them.
  • Question 7

Stem cells can be used in medical treatment. One of these processes is known as therapeutic cloning. Describe this process by matching up the sentences below.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Stem cells could be injected into...
...This would reduce the need for...
The stem cells would need to have...
...Otherwise they would be reject...
The DNA of an embryo cell can be ...
...With the DNA from a patient’...
The embryo produces stem cells co...
...The cells will not be rejected...
This process is called...
...therapeutic cloning
EDDIE SAYS
Therapeutic cloning is an example of stem cells being used in medical treatment. The benefits of using your own stem cells mean that there is no rejection by your own immune system and no need to find a donor, making treatment a lot easier.
  • Question 8

There are risks involved when using stem cells for treatment. Select two risks below.

CORRECT ANSWER
Infection from operations
Tumours may form because of uncontrolled cell division
EDDIE SAYS
Medical treatments are never free of risk, often it's a matter of weighing up the benefits and risks before proceeding with treatment. With stem cells, because cells are dividing there is a chance of uncontrolled cell division. There may also be a risk of disease transmission from donors as well as infection risks when being operated on.
  • Question 9

Why is the use of embryonic stem cells controversial? Fill in the blanks below.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
To keep things exciting when it comes to stem cells there's some controversy involved. There are different types of issues depending on the type of cells involved. Often with embryonic stem cells and therapeutically-cloned stem cells, the issue of using embryo's can be a sensitive topic. In science obtaining a balanced view is important and often there is no one correct answer.
  • Question 10

There are two types of stem cells, embryonic and adult stem cells. What are some of the differences between the two types of cells? Select one answer in each row.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Remember embryonic cells are from the embryo so are going to be identical and undifferentiated (at least upto eight-cell stage). They can differentiate into lots of different types of cells. Adult stem cells can't differentiate as widely as embryonic cells and they're harder to find as there's not many of them in adult tissues.
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