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Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues of Biotechnology

Scientists who work with DNA technologies must be conscious of their impact beyond the benchtop.

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Male Stem Cells?
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Male Stem Cells?

Wait, You Can Do That?

Stem cells have been receiving a lot of attention in recent years from both researchers and the media. These cells have amazing medical potential as, in theory, some of them can become any cell in the body. With that kind of potential, people have dreamed of uses ranging from regrowing limbs to curing cancer. However, not everyone is sold on this sort of research. The reason is that the most potent stem cells come from embryos, they are known as embryonic stem cells, and people question the ethics of creating an embryo just to use its cells in medical procedures. However, embryonic stem cells are not the only stem cells in the body, there are other "adult" stem cells, but these cells are of less interest to researchers because they are more limited in the cells they can become. This situation exists because as an organism develops from a single cell to a multicellular organism, the cells become more specialized for specific functions, losing the ability to differentiate into other types of cells. But some researchers think they may have found a way around the ethical dilemma. Watch the below video to find out more about stem cells.


Now that you are more familiar with stem cells, watch this video to see why researchers believe the male reproductive system may be the key around an ethical dilemma.


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Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. What does pluripotency mean? What type(s) of cells display this characteristic?
  2. Can adult testes stem cells be differentiated into as many cell types as embyonic stem cells? What does this mean for the potential medical use of these cells?
  3. What are the functions of stem cells in organisms?
  4. What is unique about the adult stem cells gathered from testes?
  5. Given the role of the testes, are you surprised by the potential of the stem cells gathered from them? Explain why or why not and be as specific as you can in your reasoning.

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