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Early Embryonic Development
Stem Cells
Stem Cells – Part 1
The Information
What are they?
Where do we get them from?
Are they all the same?
Why are we interested in them?
How cells become specialised
• Correct stimulus is given to unspecialised cells
e.g. a chemical stimulus
• Some genes are switched on and become
active; other genes are switched off
• m-RNA is made from the active genes
• m-RNA moves to the ribosomes; the
ribosomes read the m-RNA and the
appropriate protein is made
• The protein can permanently alter the
structure and function of cells
Stem Cells – What are they?
A type of source or
master cell that can
Undifferentiated cells
Which keep dividing
And can give rise to other cell types
How much stem cells differentiate is called
Stem cells vary in their potency:
Totipotent: can give rise to any cell and so can
produce a whole organism
Pluripotent: potential to develop into many cell
types but not all of them.
Multipotent: cells retain the capacity to make a
few types of cell
Unipotent: make one type of cell e.g. Skin cells
What are they and where are they
Timeline of development
• Day 1: Fertilisation – a zygote is formed
Series of rapid cell divisions
No increase in size
• Day 5: Blastocyst – a hollow ball of cells
Outer layer
Inner 50 cells
• Week 12: Fully differentiated foetus.
Stem cells and their use in medicine
Sources of stem cells:
•Multipotent cells from adults
•Spare embryos from IVF
•Umbilical cord stem cells
•Therapeutic cloning or
admixed embryos
Different view points
Just a last point....
Ethical considerations
• Where do you stand on the issue of using
embryonic stem cells?
• What are the advantages and disadvantages
of using them in research?