The smart way to improve grades

Comprehensive & curriculum aligned

Try an activity or get started for free

Describe Stem Cells

In this worksheet, students will describe stem cells.

'Describe Stem Cells' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   Biology: Single Subject, Biology: Combined Science

GCSE Boards:   OCR 21st Century

Curriculum topic:   Using Food and Controlling Growth

Curriculum subtopic:   Should We Use Stem Cells to Treat Damage and Disease?

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. 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, lungs, 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.  It opens the way for potential new treatments to replace cells lost to injury and disease, and for research that might help to develop alternatives to organ transplants, as well as to enable the testing of the effects of new drugs. 


 

Ethical issues

 

The use of stem cells poses many issues. Often, the issue of whether it's right or wrong to use embryos for research or for therapy poses an ethical dilemma.

To obtain embryonic stem cells, the early embryo has to be destroyed. Some people view the early embryo as a person and therefore believe it has the same rights as any other living person. Others may believe the embryo isn't a person as it doesn't share any features or properties with people. 

So you can see, it's quite a complicated situation with no clear right or wrong answer! That's the thing with ethical issues, they will vary from person to person as they are dependent on personal values, morals and beliefs.

Because of this, the government regulates the use of stem cells in research and medicines in many countries. The government will help to oversee whether the benefits of stem cell use outweigh the risks. For example, obtaining and storing stem cells can be difficult.  If there are too many risks and not many benefits, stem cell research or therapy could be rejected. It all depends on individual cases.

 

 

Stem cells in plants

 

Stem cells aren't 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.

As 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. 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?

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

 

What is the name of the part of the plant where they are found?

 

Image of plant meristem areas

Meristem

Leaves

Stem

Roots

Stem cell treatment has many potential uses.

 

Which of the following can be used to accurately complete the sentence below?

 

Stem cells have the potential to be used ....

 

 

Image showing uses of stem cells

To treat chickenpox

To replace cells lost through disease

To create organs for transplant

To replace burned tissue

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? 

 

Image of egg and sperm cells

To treat chickenpox

To replace cells lost through disease

To create organs for transplant

To replace burned tissue

Embryonic stem cells are taken from an embryo.

 

Where are adult stem cells found?

Umbilical cord

Embryo

Nucleus

Bone marrow

Decide if these statements are for or against the use of stem cells?

 

 

A

 

Unused embryos will be discarded anyway, so why not use them for research?

B

 

Stem cells may provide a useful way to test the effects of new experimental drugs.

C

 

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

D

 

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

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?

 

Image of 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

Match up the key terms with their definitions.

Column A

Column B

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

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?

Compare the similarities and differences between plant and animal cells.

 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
  • Question 1

What is a stem cell?

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
How did you get on with this first question? It was asking you for a very precise scientific term here - differentiated. 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 cells can be found in the parts of a plant that are growing.

 

What is the name of the part of the plant where they are found?

 

Image of plant meristem areas

CORRECT ANSWER
Meristem
EDDIE SAYS
You might not know this term but maybe you could have chosen it by a process of elimination? 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 3

Stem cell treatment has many potential uses.

 

Which of the following can be used to accurately complete the sentence below?

 

Stem cells have the potential to be used ....

 

 

Image showing uses of stem cells

CORRECT ANSWER
To replace cells lost through disease
To create organs for transplant
To replace burned tissue
EDDIE SAYS
There were three correct answers to this one. Did you find them all? 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 4

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? 

 

Image of egg and sperm cells

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Fill in the blank questions can be tough because you have to choose the correct word with no help! 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

Embryonic stem cells are taken from an embryo.

 

Where are adult stem cells found?

CORRECT ANSWER
Umbilical cord
Bone marrow
EDDIE SAYS
Did you choose two options this time? 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, 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 6

Decide if these statements are for or against the use of stem cells?

 

 

A

 

Unused embryos will be discarded anyway, so why not use them for research?

B

 

Stem cells may provide a useful way to test the effects of new experimental drugs.

C

 

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

D

 

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

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
These arguments are known as ethical issues, as they are based on an individual's morals and beliefs. There is no right or wrong - just people's personal opinions.
  • Question 7

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?

 

Image of 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
This might have looked tricky, but careful reading of the choices shows us that two of them are not likely to be correct! 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 8

Match up the key terms 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
Did you match them all correctly? 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 - it will become easier with practice.
  • Question 9

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
Another tricky matching task to do, but just take them one at a time. Remember that embryonic cells are from the embryo, so are going to be identical and undifferentiated (at least up to the 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 10

Compare the similarities and differences between plant and animal cells.

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
Wow - what a lot to think about with this one. Don't worry if you didn't get them all correct - you won't be alone in finding this tricky! This type of chart 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. Well done for completing this challenging activity.
---- OR ----

Get started for free so you can track and measure your child's progress on this activity.

What is EdPlace?

We're your National Curriculum aligned online education content provider helping each child succeed in English, maths and science from year 1 to GCSE. With an EdPlace account you’ll be able to track and measure progress, helping each child achieve their best. We build confidence and attainment by personalising each child’s learning at a level that suits them.

Get started
laptop

Try an activity or get started for free