Stem Cell Progress

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Synopsis:

Embryonic stem cells can transform themselves into every cell in your body. As the field of stem cell research continues to evolve, the debate between the medical promises and the ethical implications persists. What are patients and researchers to do?

Blue-stained circle of cells with green-stained cell corona

Image by C. Svendsen and A. Ebert, University of Wisconsin-Madison
These neural cells, from human embryonic stem cells, are used to understand how motor neurons develop and die in ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease

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Discussion Questions

  1. What are some possible therapeutic applications of stem cell research? Discuss the types of diseases it could treat and the differences between treatments with embryonic, adult and induced pluripotent stem cells. What other possible treatments can the class come up with?
  2. What are the concerns surrounding medical travel? What factors drive patients to seek treatment overseas? What considerations should medical travelers take before deciding to seek treatment abroad?
  3. How would the stem cell treatments work? What are some benefits and challenges the different treatments presented?
  4. How do researchers hope to use stem cells to treat ALS?

Lesson Plans/Activities

  1. Go, go stem cells! Students learn about the role of stem cells in the body’s six main systems in this interactive animation. Be sure to explore this site’s additional lessons for more stem cell information. Recommended for grades 7-10.
  2. Peer into the microscope! Watch a time-lapse video of stem cells growing in a lab dish. This short video shows two views, including one marked with green fluorescent protein, and is recommended for grades 7-12.
  3. How dunnit? In this brief animation, students see how stem cells are isolated and grown for research. Recommended for grades 7-10.
  4. Follow stem cells through history. Read our five-year progress report and our first guide to stem cells. Also, check out the shocking predecessor to stem cell research: Dolly.