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Describe Uses of Stem Cells

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

'Describe 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. 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

 

The function of stem cells

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 usually used to replace damaged blood cells and can be used to treat conditions such as leukaemia.

 

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. 

 

Cancers such as leukaemia which affects white blood cells can be treated using stem cells. Bone marrow transplant involves destroying damaged or diseased blood cells and replacing them with healthy adult stem cells from the bone marrow. 

 

Most medical uses of stem cells are still experimental. Treatments are still being researched for treating diseases such as:

Heart disease – using the patient’s own stem cells from bone marrow to replace damaged cells in the heart
Type 1 diabetes - using stem cells to replace damaged cells in the pancreas to produce insulin

 

Risks -The properties of stem cells are not fully understood. This means that 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, 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. 

In the following activity, you will describe stem cells and some of their uses in medicine.

What are embryonic 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

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 and will form an embryo. Why are embryonic stem cells so important to scientists?

Embryonic stem cells are taken from an embryo. Where are adult stem cells found?

Umbilical cord

Embryo

Nucleus

Bone marrow

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?

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
The chance of something bad happening
Differentiate
To undergo change to become specialised, for examp...
Risk
A genetically identical copy
Clone
Cells from the embryo that can form any type of ce...

There are 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

Image of teenage boy

 

Andrew is in year 11 and learning about stem cells. He has learned that fetal stem cells are taken from the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. Andrew thinks it's better to take stem cells from an umbilical cord rather than an embryo. He believes it's wrong to interfere with a growing embryo. What is a decision or opinion based on your personal beliefs called?

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

  • Question 1

What are embryonic stem cells?

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Most embryonic stem cells will differentiate into cell types that the embryo needs to develop. Some of the embryonic stem cells won't differentiate and will remain as stem cells to be used later on.
  • 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.
  • 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?

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 and will form an embryo. Why are embryonic stem cells so important to scientists?

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

Embryonic stem cells are taken from an embryo. Where are adult stem cells found?

CORRECT ANSWER
Bone marrow
EDDIE SAYS
Adult stem cells can still be found in children and not just actual adults! Adult stem cells are typically found in bone marrow but can really be found almost anywhere like the heart or liver.
  • Question 6

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?

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Adult stem cells don't get as much recognition as embryonic stem cells but they're 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.
  • Question 7

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...
Risk
The chance of something bad happe...
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 key words.
  • Question 8

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 9

Image of teenage boy

 

Andrew is in year 11 and learning about stem cells. He has learned that fetal stem cells are taken from the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. Andrew thinks it's better to take stem cells from an umbilical cord rather than an embryo. He believes it's wrong to interfere with a growing embryo. What is a decision or opinion based on your personal beliefs called?

CORRECT ANSWER
Ethics
Ethic
Ethical
EDDIE SAYS
Ethical opinions are based on your personal beliefs. There is no one right or wrong answer. People may have different opinions based on their religion or culture.
  • Question 10

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.
---- OR ----

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