This is a preview of Chapter 3 (16 min).
Adult stem cells can only make cells for one type of tissue, such as blood, brain, gut, or muscle. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent – they can make any kind of cell. They were discovered by scientists studying an unusual kind of tumour, teratocarcinoma, which contains every type of cell found in the body. Martin Evans realised that teratocarcinomas modelled early embryonic development and showed that cells from a teratocarcinoma could be multiplied in the lab. In 1981, he applied his findings to normal mice embryos, and embryonic stem cells were discovered. In 1988, scientist Jamie Thomson used the technique to produce human embryonic stem cells, using embryos created in fertility treatment. The discovery stirred religious and political controversy.
A downloadable Teacher Pack with learning outcomes and recommendations for use in the classroom has been compiled by EuroStemCell and will be included with any educational DVD or download.