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

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Stem Cells in Medicine

  • It is possible to grow human embryos in the lab and to extract embryonic stem cells from them
  • These embryonic stem cells can then be encouraged to differentiate into most types of specialised cell
  • Scientists and doctors could use stem cell technology to repair damaged organs by growing new tissue from stem cells produced by embryos created using genetic information from the patient
  • Adult stem cells can also be cultured in the lab and made to differentiate into specialised cells
    • They can only differentiate into a few cell types (predominantly cells of the blood)
  • Stem cells could be used to cure many diseases in the future, such as diabetes and paralysis

Stem Cells Table Stem cells table 1, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Stem cells in therapeutic cloning

  • In therapeutic cloning, an embryo is produced with the same genes as the patient
  • A 5-day old embryo is the best source of embryonic stem cells
  • Stem cells from embryos created in this way are not rejected by the patient’s body
  • So they may be used for medical treatment without the patient having to take drugs to suppress their immune system (which reduce the body’s ability to fight infection)

Therapeutic Cloning, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

The process of therapeutic cloning

Evaluating stem cells in medicine

Evaluating Stem Cells in Medicine Table Evaluating stem cells_1, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Exam Tip

Despite the many advantages of using embryonic stem cells, the main factors against using them are ethical and logistical. Firstly, they are a human life in many peoples' view, for people that believe life starts at fertilisation. Secondly, despite the plentiful supply of sperm for IVF treatments, eggs are much harder to get out of a person's body. A woman has to undergo painful and expensive hormone therapy to produce eggs, then have an operation under sedation to have them removed.

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Author: Phil

Phil has a BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Birmingham, followed by an MBA from Manchester Business School. He has 15 years of teaching and tutoring experience, teaching Biology in schools before becoming director of a growing tuition agency. He has also examined Biology for one of the leading UK exam boards. Phil has a particular passion for empowering students to overcome their fear of numbers in a scientific context.