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Discuss Stem Cell Uses

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

'Discuss Stem Cell Uses' 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 is 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. The DNA of an embryo cell can be replaced with the DNA from a patient’s cell. 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. 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 discuss the uses of stem cells in medicine.

 

Explain what a stem cell is. Complete the sentences below by matching up the boxes.

Column A

Column B

A stem cell is an...
...undifferentiated cell
A stem cell is able to...
...produce other cells by differentiating
A stem cell is also able to...
...produce many cells of the same type

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?

Image of egg and sperm cells

 

When an egg is fertilised by a sperm, it will start dividing forming an embryo. It will reach the eight-cell stage. The eight-cell stage is important because...

In conditions such as leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood cells, there is often a fall in the number of healthy blood cells. Stem cells may be used to help treat leukemia. Adult stem cells might be taken from the bone marrow and differentiated into blood cells.  What type of blood cells may form from these stem cells?

Red blood cell

Nerve cell

Platelets

Muscle cell

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

 

Image showing uses of stem cells

Column A

Column B

Nerve cells
Burns and ulcers
Heart muscle cells
some kinds of blindness
Insulin-secreting cells
Diabetes
Skin cells
Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries
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...
...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...

Some people don't think it's right to use embryo's for their stem cells. Read through the statements below and select two statements that don't agree with embryonic stem cell use.

 

 

Scientists believe the best stem cells come from embryos

Stem cells could be used to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and diabetes

Some types of stem cells can be taken from other places, including adult tissues, without the need to kill embryos

Embryos are living and using them for research is the same as murder

Image of human heart

 

Heart disease is often when blood to the heart is blocked by fatty substances in the arteries. This can lead to cells in the heart being damaged. How might stem cells from the patients bone marrow be used to help those with heart disease? 

The stem cells will differentiate into new cells and replace the damaged ones

The stem cells won't really make a difference

The stem cells will differentiate into new blood cells

Image of a syringe

 

Type 1 diabetes is a life long condition that affects many people. Diabetics often inject insulin on a daily basis. Stem cell research has potential benefits to diabetics. What might be some of these benefits?

Pancreas will produce adrenaline

Injecting insulin won't be needed

Injecting insulin will still be needed

Pancreas will produce insulin

Medical treatments are never free of risk, often it's a matter of weighing up the benefits and risks before proceeding with treatment. There are some risks involved when using stem cells for treatment.

Infection from operations

Stem cells rebuild tissues in damaged organs

Tumours may form because of uncontrolled cell division

New cells will be made to replace damaged cells

  • Question 1

Explain what a stem cell is. Complete the sentences below by matching up the boxes.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

A stem cell is an...
...undifferentiated cell
A stem cell is able to...
...produce many cells of the same...
A stem cell is also able to...
...produce other cells by differe...
EDDIE SAYS
Stem cells can stay as one type of cell and they can just replicate and produce more of the same. Or, stem cells can differentiate into different types of cells, like into nerve cells or muscle cell for example. 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

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?

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 3

Image of egg and sperm cells

 

When an egg is fertilised by a sperm, it will start dividing forming an embryo. It will reach the eight-cell stage. The eight-cell stage is important because...

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

In conditions such as leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood cells, there is often a fall in the number of healthy blood cells. Stem cells may be used to help treat leukemia. Adult stem cells might be taken from the bone marrow and differentiated into blood cells.  What type of blood cells may form from these stem cells?

CORRECT ANSWER
Red blood cell
Platelets
EDDIE SAYS
You can think of adult stem cells as originating from anywhere other than from an embryo. 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, although there are fewer of them. By using stem cells you can increase the number of healthy cells in the blood, helping to alleviate some of the symptoms of leaukemia.
  • Question 5

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

 

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

Some people don't think it's right to use embryo's for their stem cells. Read through the statements below and select two statements that don't agree with embryonic stem cell use.

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Some types of stem cells can be taken from other places, including adult tissues, without the need to kill embryos
Embryos are living and using them for research is the same as murder
EDDIE SAYS
Decisions based on your personal beliefs are known as ethical issues. There are no right or wrong decisions. Use of embryonic stem cells is always a controversial topic as many people believe that the embryo has a right to life and not to be just discarded after use.
  • Question 8

Image of human heart

 

Heart disease is often when blood to the heart is blocked by fatty substances in the arteries. This can lead to cells in the heart being damaged. How might stem cells from the patients bone marrow be used to help those with heart disease? 

CORRECT ANSWER
The stem cells will differentiate into new cells and replace the damaged ones
EDDIE SAYS
Stem cells from the patients bone marrow can be used to replace damaged cells in the heart. By using the patient's own stem cells, the immune system is unlikely to reject it.
  • Question 9

Image of a syringe

 

Type 1 diabetes is a life long condition that affects many people. Diabetics often inject insulin on a daily basis. Stem cell research has potential benefits to diabetics. What might be some of these benefits?

CORRECT ANSWER
Injecting insulin won't be needed
Pancreas will produce insulin
EDDIE SAYS
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn't make the hormone insulin. Diabetics will have to inject insulin throughout the day. The insulin stops the levels of glucose getting too high, which can be extremely dangerous. Stem cell treatment could offer a potential cure for type 1 diabetics.
  • Question 10

Medical treatments are never free of risk, often it's a matter of weighing up the benefits and risks before proceeding with treatment. There are some risks involved when using stem cells for treatment.

CORRECT ANSWER
Infection from operations
Tumours may form because of uncontrolled cell division
EDDIE SAYS
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.
---- OR ----

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