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Activity 5Topics for group discussion or pupil presentations

To understand the debate about stem cells and the ethics of using them, pupils need first to understand the science. It is not too difficult, but it is afflicted with a rather daunting technical vocabulary.

A useful way for pupils to get a handle on the science is to research the key technical terms in groups, and explain what they mean to the rest of the class.

These terms are:

pluripotent

totipotent

multipotent

unipotent

adult stem cells

embryonic stem cells

A useful starting point for their research is: http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/glossary.asp

Then they should try to answer the following questions:

What are the advantages and disadvantages of adult stem cells as possible treatments for diseases?

Why do scientist believe that embryonic stem cells offer far greater potential?

What is the big ethical problem with using embryonic stem cells?

The following are useful and pupil-friendly introductory sites for the ethics:

www.beep.ac.uk/content/549.0.html Video interview on ethical issues in stem cell research. From Bioethics Education Project.

www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/miracle/stemcells.html Background on the ethics.

real   science

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