Stem Cells in Animals & Plants (OCR Gateway GCSE Biology: Combined Science)

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Animal & Plant Stem Cells

Animal stem cells

  • A stem cell is an undifferentiated cell of an organism that is capable of dividing to produce many more cells of the same type (undifferentiated stem cells)
  • In addition, depending on which instructions they are given, stem cells can also give rise to other cell types through the process of differentiation
  • In animals, there are two broad categories of stem cells
    • Embryonic stem cells are found in early embryos - they have the potential to turn into any kind of cell type
      • This is how an early embryo can develop into a complex multicellular organism 
    • Adult stem cells are only found in certain places (like bone marrow) and can only differentiate into a few different cell types
      • They are predominantly used to maintain and repair damaged cells such in the blood or skin

Animal Stem Cells Table

Animal stem cells, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Plant stem cells

  • Plant stem cells occur in meristem tissue which is found in areas that are growing such as roots and shoot tips
  • Meristem tissue produces unspecialised cells that can differentiate into any cell type needed by the plant
    • e.g. meristem cells in the roots can differentiate into root hair cells 
  • Plant stem cells retain the ability to differentiate into any type of plant cell throughout the life of the plant
  • It is possible to use plant stem cells to clone plants with desired characteristics
    • e.g. resistance to certain diseases

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