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Evaluate the Uses of Stem Cells

In this worksheet, students will evaluate the uses of stem cells in medicine.

'Evaluate the Uses of Stem Cells' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   Life and Environmental Sciences

GCSE Boards:   AQA Synergy

Curriculum topic:   Interactions With the Environment

Curriculum subtopic:   Preventing, Treating and Curing Diseases

Difficulty level:  

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

 

The 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. Stem cells are also found in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies and also can be obtained from the placenta; these are called fetal stem cells and do a similar job to adult stem cells.

 

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 test 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 aren't 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.

 

Image of a girl thinking

 

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. These are often referred to as ethical issues. In science obtaining a balanced view is important and often there is no one correct answer. 

 

In the following activity, you will evaluate the uses of stem cells.

Image of a human embryo

 

Stem cell research may be carried out on embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells and fetal blood cells. Match up the different types of stem cells and where you can find them.

Column A

Column B

Embryonic stem cell
Found in the umbilical cord blood from newborn bab...
Adult stem cell
Often taken from aborted embryo's or embryo's from...
Fetal Stem cell
Often taken from bone marrow but potentially can b...

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

 

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 stem cells, embryonic and adult stem cells. What are some of the differences between the two types of cells?

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?

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

Stem cells can be used in medical treatment. One of these processes is known as therapeutic cloning.

Column A

Column B

Stem cells could be injected into damaged organs t...
...The cells will not be rejected so immune-suppre...
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...
...Otherwise they would be rejected by the patient...
The embryo produces stem cells containing the pati...
...therapeutic cloning.
This process is called...
...This would reduce the need for organ transplant...

There are risks involved when using stem cells for treatment.

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?

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

What are the advantages of using stem cells from your own body to treat an illness?

More likely to be rejected by own immune system

Less likely to be rejected by own immune system

You don't need to look for a donor

It's easier to use someone else's stem cells

Image of a girl thinking

 

Embryonic stem cell research can be a little controversial as many people have different views on it. Sort the statements below into those that support embryonic stem cell research, those that are against it and those that are neutral.

  • Question 1

Image of a human embryo

 

Stem cell research may be carried out on embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells and fetal blood cells. Match up the different types of stem cells and where you can find them.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Embryonic stem cell
Often taken from aborted embryo's...
Adult stem cell
Often taken from bone marrow but ...
Fetal Stem cell
Found in the umbilical cord blood...
EDDIE SAYS
Adult stem cells can be found in many organs and tissues around the body like the liver for example. However, they are fewer in number so can be hard to find. Embryonic stem cells as the name suggests are taken from an embryo and can divide to form even more stem cells. Fetal stem cells can be taken from the umbilical cord or placenta and are easily obtained after a baby has been born.
  • Question 2

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

 

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 3

There are two types of stem cells, embryonic and adult stem cells. What are some of the differences between the two types of cells?

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.
  • Question 4

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?

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

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

Stem cells can be used in medical treatment. One of these processes is known as therapeutic cloning.

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 7

There are risks involved when using stem cells for treatment.

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 8

Why is the use of embryonic stem cells controversial?

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 9

What are the advantages of using stem cells from your own body to treat an illness?

CORRECT ANSWER
Less likely to be rejected by own immune system
You don't need to look for a donor
EDDIE SAYS
Using your own stem cells means that your body doesn't treat the cells like a foreign object that it needs to destroy which is what our immune system normally does. Donated stem cells can often lead to rejection by the immune system as white blood cells will treat the donor cells as a pathogen and try to destroy it. Often if patients can't use their own stem cells then doctors will look for donated cells that match the patient's cells as close as possible.
  • Question 10

Image of a girl thinking

 

Embryonic stem cell research can be a little controversial as many people have different views on it. Sort the statements below into those that support embryonic stem cell research, those that are against it and those that are neutral.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Different people will have different views on embryonic stem cell research depending on their personal beliefs. There's no correct answer and in science, it's important to have a balanced view.
---- OR ----

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