Over 40 years ago, Canadian researchers Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch discovered the existence of stem cells in the blood. Stem cells are unspecialized cells. They have the ability to become any type of cell and, thus, can form skin,bones, and organs. This ability makes stem cells perfect to repair or replace cells that are damaged or defective. Scientists believe that stem cells may be used to cure diseases of tissues and organs, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes, and heart and lung disease. However, controversy surrounds the use of stem cells because the human embryo is the best source for stem cells.

Background Information

Michael J. Fox is a Canadian actor who is best known for the Back to the Future series of movies. In 1998,Fox revealed that he had Parkinson’s disease, which affects the nervous system and causes people to lose control over their muscles. In 2001, Fox launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to raise funds and awareness about Parkinson’s disease. Fox is hopeful that embryonic stem cells may cure Parkinson’s disease. Canada has developed strict guidelines surrounding the use of stem cells. Only embryos that are less than 14 days old and that are no longer wanted for reproduction may be used. This means that, in Canada, creating human embryos for stem cell research is not allowed. So far, stem cell research has been done only on lab animals. Using stem cells has improved stroke recovery in rats, treated a disease similar to Parkinson’s in mice, and caused new brain cells to grow in birds. In 2007, a Canadian research team led by Dr. Freda Miller used skin-derived stem cells to repair spinal cord injuries in rats.


**Answers for part one and two can be submitted on paper or digitally (in Brighspace dropbox)

Part One: Video Snack

Warm Up…

Identify the different types of stem cells (from Chapter 1.3 – reading given out in class), and explain how stem cells can be used in the treatment of diseases.

Video: RNAi

Watch the RNAi clip.  Answer the following questions.

  • What role did the petunia play in the discovery of RNAi?
  • How does RNAi work?
  • Why did cells evolve this mechanism?

Video: Stem Cells (2005)

  • Watch the Stem Cells (April 2005) clip.
  • Design 3 questions that could be asked of anyone that sees this clip.

    Video: Stem Cells (2006)

    • Watch the Stem Cells (Update 2006) clip.
    • What information has changed in respect to stem cells since the first clip?

      Part Two: Current Information Hunt

      Find a new youtube video (Newscast, research or teaching video) with some up to date information in it about Stem Cells and the research that has been done since 2006 (when you were a babe).

      • Provide the link to the video in your jot notes.
      • List 3 things that have changed, we have learned or has improved in the last 15 years.
      • Give two questions you still have about stem cells.

      **Submit all jot notes and answers for part one and two on paper or digitally in Brightspace submission box. 

      Part Three: Flipgrid Response

      Please consider the following as a guide to create a response to this assignment.  All comments will be posted in Fripgrid under the ‘Stem Cells and Disease’ post.  Remember that you can find flipgrid in our Teams site under the ‘Resources’ tab… or find it here…. 

      • The most interesting thing I learned about stem cells today was…. because… (give at least 2 reasons why it was interesting)
      • Explain how the ethical issues associated with the use of adult stem cells are different than those associated with the use of embryonic stem cells
      • Embryonic stem cell harvesting can be an ethical issue for people.  What are your thoughts about using embryonic stem cells in research and treatments?  Does the switching of a gene within the egg to produce only a blastula and not a viable fetus negate these ethical issues?  Your opinion is welcome… make sure you support it!