Cell Division and Differentiation: Multicellular Organization

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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 third of three Science Objects in the Cell Division and Differentiation SciPack. It investigates the hierarchy and various structures of the groups of specialized and unspecialized cells in multicellular organisms.

Each type of cell forms tissues and organs that comprise the final organism. This differentiation is regulated through the expression of different genes. Differentiation and specialization is necessary in multicellular organisms because maintaining a full complement of all cellular capabilities is costly and/or incompatible with meeting all the organism’s needs.

Groups of specialized cells cooperate to form a tissue, such as a muscle. Different tissues are in turn grouped together to form larger functional units, called organs. Each type of cell, tissue, and organ has a distinct structure and set of functions that serve the organism as a whole. Different body tissues and organs are made up of different kinds of cells. Undifferentiated cells, called adult stem cells, also exist among the differentiated cells in tissues and organs of mature multicellular organisms. These adult stem cells function primarily to maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found through regulated growth and differentiation.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Compare and contrast how cells, tissue and organs function in a multicellular organism.
  • Explain why stem cells are important in adult organisms.
  • Explain how stem cell therapies can be effective for treating some diseases and conditions.

  • Elementary
  • Middle
  • High

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Reviews (6)
  • on Fri Oct 03, 2014 3:26 PM

I'm a new (much older!) Masters of Science in Science Education candidate and I took my content courses a long time ago. Ir's amazing how good these are, how much has been learned since I took those courses, and how helpful these are to me as I take my required Education credits. This is a great unit - the first I've completed in NSTA Learning Center - and helped me to remember how important every word in a science question is...especially when taking the little mini quizzes throughout.


  • on Mon Sep 01, 2014 6:48 PM

I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Cell Division and Differentiation: Multicellular Organization 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 10:44 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. 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 Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:56 PM

The order and intricacy of the cell provide proof to the concept of life.

Ronaldo Relador  (Bowie, MD)
Ronaldo Relador (Bowie, MD)

  • on Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:41 PM

My content was not strong over the nature of stems cells in the adult body. As I went through the resource I discovered that there were a couple of misconceptions that I still had over differentiation of stem cells in the adult body. This is a great review for the teacher before you talk about biotechnology or do a stem cell research debate in class.

Danielle D  (Marshall, MO)
Danielle D (Marshall, MO)

  • on Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:16 PM

This is a useful and engaging resource for high school biology!

Caroline Schley
Caroline Schley

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