Cell Division and Differentiation: Variation and Specialization of Cells

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Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object is the second of three Science Objects in the Cell Division and Differentiation SciPack. It explores the processes that take place within cells that allow for selective gene expression, which leads to the specialization and variation of cells in organisms.

Cell functions are turned on and off by regulatory genes, through changes in the activity of the functions performed by proteins. Although cells in a multi–celled organism begin alike, having essentially identical genetic instructions, selective expression of individual genes (cells are regulated) causes the unspecialized embryonic stem cells to become very different (cells can differentiate). The embryonic stem cells become increasingly more specialized, differentiating into a variety of cell types. Selective expression results when different parts of the genetic instructions are used in different types of cells, influenced by the cell's environment and past history.

The work of the cell is carried out by the many different types of molecules it assembles, mostly proteins. In specialized cells, other protein molecules may carry oxygen, effect contraction, respond to outside stimuli, or provide material for other body structures. In still other cells, assembled molecules may be exported to serve as hormones, antibodies, or digestive enzymes.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Explain the role of regulatory genes and how they function.
  • Explain how it is possible for different types of cells, such as bone cells and liver cells, to have identical genetic instructions and function differently.
  • Describe the role of embryonic stem cells in the development and growth of complex organisms.
  • Interpret data presented in graphs and charts from experiments addressing the role that protein-related variables (such as hormones, antibodies and digestive enzymes) play in the regulation of a complex organism’s life processes.

Grades
  • Elementary
  • Middle
  • High

Community ActivitySaved in 3194 Libraries

Reviews (7)
  • on Sun Apr 12, 2015 7:19 AM

Great explanation of the background behind stem cell research. I have a better understanding of what scientist believe they can accomplish with adult stem cells!!

Robin Willig  (Rye Brook, NY)
Robin Willig (Rye Brook, NY)

  • on Mon Sep 01, 2014 6:49 PM

I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Cell Division and Differentiation:Variation and Specialization of Cells will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are really beneficial! Science Object will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are really beneficial!

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:45 PM

I used this as a prep for the PA Keystone Tests with great success. It filled in a lot of gaps and increased student scores. Many of my students struggle with this area. We did the textbook exercises and then once a week did the science objects. 100% Great job!

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Tue Aug 28, 2012 5:46 PM

This Science Object is a longer one but it was worth the time. It was very informative.

Elaine Slesinski  (Lake Worth, FL)
Elaine Slesinski (Lake Worth, FL)

  • on Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:35 PM

Super exhaustive Science Object! The minute details captured by this science object were not only enlightening but exciting. Key knowledge that was enhanced by this resource was the fact that every cell in an organism has the exact same DNA; the differences in the structure and function of each cell is a result of gene expression. A thorough elucidation for teachers which will surely lead to more helpful understanding of students questions! NSTA resources continue to ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!

Duane Little  (Washington, DC)
Duane Little (Washington, DC)

  • on Sun Dec 18, 2011 1:08 AM

This interactive resource clearly describes for readers/viewers how cell-to-cell communication allows differentiated cells to coordinate their functions to benefit the whole organism. I have found this a challenging concept to explain to my middle school scholars in the past, but this resource does and excellent job in making something so abstract, concrete. This will definitely be an added benefit in the life sciences classroom when teaching how cells differentiate to become specialized cells.

Lorrie Armfield  (Laurel, MD)
Lorrie Armfield (Laurel, MD)

  • on Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:41 PM

I thought that the resource was very informative and will help any new or seasoned teacher in understanding what is to be taught in respect to the TEKS.

Donielle  Edwards-Tyeskie  (Dallas , TX)
Donielle Edwards-Tyeskie (Dallas , TX)


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