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Describe 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. All the cells are identical to each other and can 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 as well as testing the effects of new drugs. 

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

 Image of a plants meristem area

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 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 different plant tissues, 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 describe stem cells and some of their functions.

 

What is a stem cell?  A stem cell is a cell that can be specialised or...  complete the sentence by typing one word below.

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

There are two types of human 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.

Image of egg and sperm cells

When an egg is fertilised by a sperm, it will start dividing and will form an embryo. Why are embryonic stem cells so important to scientists? 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 can be found in the parts of a plant that are growing.Image of plant meristem areas

What is the area of a plant where stem cells are found called? Select one answer.

Meristem

Leaves

Stem

Roots

Embryonic stem cells are taken from an embryo. Where are adult stem cells found? Select two examples from below.

Umbilical cord

Embryo

Nucleus

Bone marrow

Match up the key terms below with their definitions. 

Column A

Column B

Embryonic stem cell
The area of a plant where stem cells are found
Adult stem cell
Cells from adult tissue that can form some types o...
Differentiate
To undergo change to become specialised, for examp...
Meristem
A genetically identical copy
Clone
Cells from the embryo that can form any type of ce...

Image of vegetables

Meristems are the area of a plant where stem cells can be found. Using cells from meristems means that plants can be cloned. Why might this be useful for a farmer growing vegetables?

The farmer can clone lots of vegetables to sell

The farmer can relax and not do any work

The farmer can clone vegetables quicker rather than waiting for crops to grow

The farmer will be super rich

Adult stem cells are just as important as embryonic stem cells and have an important role in the human body. Are the following statements true or false? Select one answer in each row.

  • Question 1

What is a stem cell?  A stem cell is a cell that can be specialised or...  complete the sentence by typing one word below.

CORRECT ANSWER
differentiated
EDDIE SAYS
Embryonic stem cells are able to differentiate into any cell type. They will switch on genes when they are needed to make them specialised.
  • Question 2

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. Incredible huh!
  • Question 3

There are two types of human 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 up to 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.
  • Question 4

Image of egg and sperm cells

When an egg is fertilised by a sperm, it will start dividing and will form an embryo. Why are embryonic stem cells so important to scientists? 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 5

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 6

Stem cells can be found in the parts of a plant that are growing.Image of plant meristem areas

What is the area of a plant where stem cells are found called? Select one answer.

CORRECT ANSWER
Meristem
EDDIE SAYS
Only cells found in the meristem region of a plant can divide to produce more identical cells. These cells can remain unspecialised or may differentiate into specialised cells depending on the plant's needs. This is complex topic matter, but keep with it!
  • Question 7

Embryonic stem cells are taken from an embryo. Where are adult stem cells found? Select two examples from below.

CORRECT ANSWER
Umbilical cord
Bone marrow
EDDIE SAYS
You can think of adult stem cells as originating from anywhere other than from an embryo. So as long as stem cells are not taken from an embryo then they're usually referred to as 'adult'. Adult stem cells can still be found in children and not just actual adults! Adult stem cells are typically found in bone marrow or umbilical cord blood (sometimes called fetal stem cells) but can really be found almost anywhere like the heart or liver. Take a deep breath, you've got this!
  • Question 8

Match up the key terms below with their definitions. 

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Embryonic stem cell
Cells from the embryo that can fo...
Adult stem cell
Cells from adult tissue that can ...
Differentiate
To undergo change to become speci...
Meristem
The area of a plant where stem ce...
Clone
A genetically identical copy
EDDIE SAYS
There are quite a few new terms in this topic of stem cells so it's always useful to test yourself to make sure you're confident in using these keywords. Don't panic if you're finding this difficult.
  • Question 9

Image of vegetables

Meristems are the area of a plant where stem cells can be found. Using cells from meristems means that plants can be cloned. Why might this be useful for a farmer growing vegetables?

CORRECT ANSWER
The farmer can clone lots of vegetables to sell
The farmer can clone vegetables quicker rather than waiting for crops to grow
EDDIE SAYS
Cloning plants from a meristem means that a farmer can produce lots of vegetables in a shorter amount of time. This is great for the farmer as it's more economical. The farmer can also choose the best crop to clone.
  • Question 10

Adult stem cells are just as important as embryonic stem cells and have an important role in the human body. Are the following statements true or false? Select one answer in each row.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Adult stem cells don't get as much recognition as embryonic stem cells but they are really important too! without them, we wouldn't be able to renew our cells if they become damaged for example. Remember, adult stem cells are found in everyone, children as well as adults.
---- OR ----

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