Students need to be able to describe the function of stem cells and discuss potential benefits and risks associated with the use of stem cells in medicine. Often students display confusion about the difference between stem cells and cloning. It is important for them to appreciate that stem cells are undifferentiated cells that researchers hope can be programmed to produce any kind of cell in the body, whilst cloning is the production of genetically identical organisms.
In explaining about stem cells it is important that students can discuss these in relation to embryonic and adult animals and also meristems in plants; often students only demonstrate knowledge about stem cells in relation to embryos, with many displaying no knowledge of the term meristem and/or not understanding that stem cells are also present in adult animals, so it's important to provide students with examples of using stem cells from both adult animals and embryos. Students could compile a table of the similarities and differences in the use of stem cells from both adult animals and embryos, alternatively they could be asked to produce a poster or leaflet for their local hospital that explain how stem cells are used.
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