Lesson idea: Stem cell discussion

Get students to consider the implications of stem cell research and future technologies

Learning objectives

Students will: 

  • consider the implications of stem cell research
  • research the current scientific situation
  • debate the future of stem cell technologies.



  • Watch this video where Mark Walport, former Director of the Wellcome Trust, discusses why stem cells have the potential to treat many debilitating diseases, and why it is important to keep all avenues of research open.
  • This BioEthics Education Project video is an introduction to the ethical issues in stem cell research.
  • ‘Big Picture: The Cell explores some of the ethical, moral and social implications of stem cell research. Photocopy the relevant pages and distribute to students to read.
  • Make a list of advantages and disadvantages of using embryonic stem cells in research.
  • Ask students to vote on whether they think researchers should be allowed to use embryonic stem cells.


Choose one of the following to discuss: umbilical stem cells or Pluri-U (you may have time to do both).

Umbilical stem cells

Read the information about umbilical stem cells.

Line up as before but this time asking about the use of umbilical stem cells. How does this compare with embryonic stem cells? 

Consider the question posed in ‘Big Picture’: ‘Should it become obligatory for women who give birth to donate their umbilical cord blood for research?’


Read the text and advert named Pluri-U. What do you think about this scenario?

Consider the question posed in the magazine: ‘What about using stem cells to enhance humans – do you think it would be acceptable to use the same technology to make you stronger or able to run faster?’

Working in groups, imagine another product based on stem cell technologies that could be produced in the future. Design an advert like the Pluri-U advert in ‘Big Picture’ for your product.

Additional information

Downloadable resources

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘The Cell’ in February 2011 and reviewed and updated in September 2015.

Cell biology
The Cell
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development