This topic explains what stem cells are and how they can be used to study disease.
To understand how stem cells are different compared to other cells in the body, we will first investigate the unique properties that characterise a stem cell: the ability to self-renew, to remain undifferentiated (unspecialised), and to retain the capacity to differentiate into many different types of specialised cells. We will then explore the different types of stem cells, in particular embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. We will see how scientists can maintain embryonic stem cells in the laboratory, and cause them to differentiate into specific cell types. We’ll also see that as well as being really cool, these experiments help to study and treat disease. Finally, we will find out how scientists have been able to turn specialised, differentiated cells into stem cells, and we will think about the moral and ethical consequences of this discovery.
The writer of this resource, Vivian, filmed this short video to explain more about her work and research interests: