Resources on Stem Cells

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Resource page including articles and career profiles related to stem cells.

The human body is made up of trillions of cells. Where do all these different cells come from? The answer is – stem cells!

Stem cells are unique because they have the ability to grow into many different cell types. It all depends on the signals they receive from surrounding cells. A stem cell can develop into a kidney cell if placed in the kidney. The same stem cell can develop into a bone cell if placed where bones grow. A stem cell takes on the characteristics of where it is placed.

Did you know? 

There are four main types of stem cells: embryonic (from human embryos), fetal (from aborted fetal tissue), umbilical (from umbilical cords) and adult (from adult tissues).

Stem cells are also important because they have the ability to replicate indefinitely. The ability to become new types of cells and to replicate have made stem cells an important tool for researchers. Stem cells can help researchers to understand events leading to diseases. They can also help to understand how healthy cells can replace damaged cells. They can be useful for testing new drugs as well. Below is an image showing some of the potential uses that researchers are investigating.

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is being investigated
Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is being investigated (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

 

Stem cells sound pretty amazing, but there are concerns. One ethical issue involves the collection of embryonic stem cells. Another concerns the use and disposal of stem cells.

There have been many breakthroughs in stem cell research. There is, however, still much more for scientists to understand about how stem cells work.

Did you know? 

Canadians have made many of the world’s major stem cell discoveries including neural stem cells, skin stem cells and retinal stem cells. 

Here are some Let’s Talk Science resources to help you learn more about stem cells and the ongoing research.

Articles & Backgrounders

A 3D-rendered illustration of stem cells

My Stem Cell Donation Story

In April 2016, Let’s Talk Science volunteer Daniel Tarade donated stem cells to help a person who needed a stem cell transplant to survive. Learn what stem cells are, how and why people donate, and what Daniel’s experience was like.
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My Stem Cell Donation Story

icon of embryo in hands

What if You Could Choose Your Baby?

Many people have had children using assisted reproductive technologies. But some of these medical biotech techniques can raise some ethical issues.
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What if You Could Choose Your Baby?

Cartoon mammoth

Should Scientists Clone Extinct Species?

Cloning makes it possible to bring extinct species back to life. But is that a good idea?
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Should Scientists Clone Extinct Species?

Former Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk enjoys cycling on board the ISS

Spaceflight and Bone Loss

Astronauts can experience bone loss in space. To understand why, you need to know a bit about how bones are formed and maintained in your body.
Read more about

Spaceflight and Bone Loss

Careers

Learning about the professionals involved is ideal to establish relations between STEM studies and skills, and the real world.  Below are some suggested career profiles to show the variety of people working with stem cells.

 

Teaching Resources

Questions for Discussion with Students

  1. What are STEM cells?
  2. What are the different types of stem cells? Where do they come from?
  3. What some of the advantages and disadvantages of using embryonic stem cells?
  4. How can we use stem cells as treatment?

Questions for Discussion with Students

  1. What are STEM cells?
  2. What are the different types of stem cells? Where do they come from?
  3. What some of the advantages and disadvantages of using embryonic stem cells?
  4. How can we use stem cells as treatment?

Teaching Suggestions

  • You can use the KWL: What I Know, What I Want to Know, and What I Learned Learning Strategy to introduce the topic.

  • Initial discussion

    • Using the questions above, discuss the topics with students. This can be done in the classroom or online, you can also have an asynchronous discussion by using a collaborative platform in which students can share their thoughts and opinions on the different questions. This option gives more space for introvert expression.

  • Articles

    • Teaching suggestions for can be found  at the bottom of each of the articles. 

Teaching Suggestions

  • You can use the KWL: What I Know, What I Want to Know, and What I Learned Learning Strategy to introduce the topic.

  • Initial discussion

    • Using the questions above, discuss the topics with students. This can be done in the classroom or online, you can also have an asynchronous discussion by using a collaborative platform in which students can share their thoughts and opinions on the different questions. This option gives more space for introvert expression.

  • Articles

    • Teaching suggestions for can be found  at the bottom of each of the articles.