Stem cells - the future: an introduction to iPS cells [video]

Last updated:
26 Nov 2012
Stem cells - the future: an introduction to iPS cells [video]

In this compelling and clear 16 minute video, leading scientists tell the story of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) - an extraordinary scientific discovery that changed the way we think about human biology and saw Shinya Yamanaka awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine, with John Gurdon, in 2012.

Quick facts

Age group


Group size



16 minutes

Technical requirements

internet connection, screen, sound

What people are saying about this resource

Details and instructions

If you can't access YouTube where you are, try Stem cells - the future on Vimeo.

This 16 minute video, ideal for general audiences and biology students aged 16+, tells the story of one of this century's most extraordinary scientific discoveries - induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells.

Nobel prize-winning medical doctor and scientist Shinya Yamanaka describes the experiments that arose from his desire to help his spinal cord injury patients. Together with other leading stem cell researchers, Yamanaka talks about the scientific, medical and ethical implications of his discovery that mature cells, such as skin cells, can be ‘reprogrammed’ into a new type of stem cell – iPS cells – that behave like embryonic stem cells.

Cameron Duguid's distinctive and appealing animations take us inside the reprogrammed cell, and bring the science to life on screen.

You can also order the DVD online.

Using the film in the classroom

This short film has been carefully structured to work well as an engaging educational tool for 16+ year olds. Download our quick quiz as a pdf or Word document to support use of the film in the classroom, or take a look at the rest of our Toolkit for other relevant educational materials.


© Amy Hardie and Clare Blackburn, the University of Edinburgh. We welcome requests to screen films or licence footage - please get in touch.

Director: Amy Hardie
Science producer: Clare Blackburn
Producers: Katia Hervy, Lili Sandelin, Amy Hardie, Clare Blackburn
Animator: Cameron Duguid

iPS Stem Cell video

Being a first year student in Medical Science I am fascinated by Professor Yamanaka’s work and I am inspired to hopefully, one day find a way to improve the future of humans. I found the video was very easy to understand for a person like me who has only a little knowledge regarding stem cells. A few things I would like to know regarding Professor Yamanaka’s work and stem cells in general. Professor Yamanaka conducted this investigation to treat people that have spinal cord injuries. But could stem cells not also be used to help people who have lost the functioning of limbs. Can the person’s embryonic cells be differentiated into properly functioning neurons and muscle cells to improve the mobility of limbs?

Secondly is there really a possibility that we can create properly functioning organs using stem cells. Yes I know that recently they have created skin and bladders but can stem cells create organs such as the heart and liver that have an extremely important and complex function. If stem cells could accomplish this, then it will truly improve the lives of many.

Stem cells are a door to countless possibilities.

Your enquiry: iPS Stem Cell video


Thank you for taking the time to comment. I can point you in the direction of some resources that may help answer your questions.

Firstly, you mention embryonic stem cells (ES) rather than induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), the latter being Professor Yamanaka's specialty. The following fact sheet outlines the differences between these cell types and their research applications:

Researchers are indeed working on differentiating both types of pluripotent stem cells into properly functioning neurons and muscle cells. For example, they have been successful in generating dopamine neurons, the kind lost in Parkinson's disease, from ES cells:

Some Parkinson's disease researchers are also working with iPS cells. Malin Parmar and others in Sweden and Italy have taken human skin cells and converted them directly into dopamine-producing neurons. Whether these neurons survive and improve the features of the disease when transplanted into an animal is not yet known. The long-term goal is to make dopamine-producing neurons from patients' own skin or hair cells. You can read more about this work in our fact sheet on Parkinson's disease:

There is also some very early research towards creating functioning organs using stem cells. For example you can read an overview of efforts to tissue engineer a heart here:

I hope this information is of some use. If you'd like further information, please feel free to contact us via our email form:

Best wishes,

iPS Stem Cell video

Being a first year student in Medical Science I am fascinated by Professor Yamanaka’s work and I am inspired to hopefully, one day find a way to improve the future of humans. I found the video was very easy to understand for a person like me who has only a little knowledge regarding stem cells. A few things I would like to know regarding Professor Yamanaka’s work and stem cells in general. Professor Yamanaka conducted this investigation to treat people that have spinal cord injuries. But could stem cells not also be used to help people who have lost the functioning of limbs. Can the person’s embryonic cells be differentiated into properly functioning neurons and muscle cells to improve the mobility of limbs?

Secondly is there really a possibility that we can create properly functioning organs using stem cells. Yes I know that recently they have created skin and bladders but can stem cells create organs such as the heart and liver that have an extremely important and complex function. If stem cells could accomplish this, then it will truly improve the lives of many.

Stem cells opens the door to countless possibilities.


iPS Video Stem Cells Thailand

Great Video. Thank you. We have had the privilege of working with Doctor Yamanaka in the past. He is an amazing doctor and our students really learned alot.

3G2-Largs Academy

This inspires us to learn more about stem cells, and continue studying things like this in biology.This has made us think about the future of the human race. Mr trainer has thought of a movie concept based on this. Career change we think!!!

3G2-Largs Academy

Thanks for the great feedback!

Fascinating film

The film on iPS cells is fascinating and highlights very clearly for the ‘lay’ the huge breakthrough that Professor Yamanaka made, I really enjoyed it ! – I will put a link on our research group website………. I hope it gets picked up by lots of people. Monica Dolton, PGCert Mgmt , Project Officer and Executive Assistant to Prof K Wood, University of Oxford, UK


From Oldmachar Academy Aberdeen, Advanced Higher Biology class (Teacher: Diane Butcher): .." the diagrams and pictures used to describe the process were simple and easy to understand.." "..brought new ethical issues to light.." "..the discovery is amazing.." "... really interesting and easy to understand..." ".. good that there is hope for patients.." "...would also help RMPS classes.." "...programme used understated music but it should have used a fanfare for the importance of this discovery!" "...good to see the humans behind the science news.."

Thanks for taking part in our BIG View of Stem Cells

Thanks to everyone who took part in our BIG View of Stem Cells on 10th December. You sent us lots of interesting, thoughtful and exciting comments on the film - it was an exciting day for us watching them all come in.

Teachers: Check out our Toolkit for more educational materials and sign up to our monthly e-newsletter to be the first to hear about new resources.

Stem Cells 10th Dec

Drummond Community High School, Gill Histon It was interesting and had really useful information; I found it interesting because it made me realise that few cells can multiply and make a lot more; I found it interesting it made you open your eyes a bit more; It was interesting and intreging to find out about stem cells; I thought the created of a skin cell is quite interested because I never know that after placing the skin of a burned person they wouldn't be able to grow hair in that burned area were the skin is placed; I never knew that the stem cell can choose to be come a different cell; the video was intersting because it explained well what stem cells are as well it shows how cell defision happens; I learned some new things watching the video. The film did not keep my attention, but the use of diagrams helped me view them and understand the stem cells better; There is a lot of information in the video, a little too much though. As you get lost half way through and start drifting off. I think stem cell research is progressing remarkably fast and there will be a breakthrough within the next 2 years; The information about diabetes was very interesting; Hmm when can we dissect something? All comments with 'spellings' and grammar as handed in by my Int 2 class this morning. Poll at end found all but one in favour of stem cell research!!!!

Advanced Higher Biology Bathgate Academy

My AH class viewed this film and made the following observations; Stem cells • They discovered that differentiated cells could be turned back into pluripotent stem cells • A revolutionary idea, astonishing. • Progressive and could benefit many • There are many moral issues to overcome but we believe that with time, humans can mature enough to prevail over them. Reasons for: • Could allow different organs to be grown from cells identical to human organ donation with no rejection. • Allows tissue to be grown to test new drugs. • Allows development of gametes, increasing fertility. Reasons against: • Is it safe? They said that some of the cells produced were mutated etc. • What if it got out of control? – Making children from these skins cells?? Regards, Brian Hyslop.

St Kentigern's Academy

From Scott Smith at St Kentigern's Academy. I showed the film to Higher Biology, Higher Human Biology and Advanced Higher Biology students - the collective chorus was 'excellent and interesting'. Many felt it was easy to understand, though some questioned if an 'easier' version with simpler language and a shorter duration could be made to engage lower school pupils as that would show them the relevance of cutting edge science before subject choice. Some quotes from my pupils: "The video is great, it is really informative and shows how far science has come :) it would be amazing to see what IPS will do in the future" "The video is extremely interesting, as it allows those who know very little about stem cells to get a better understanding of them and illustrates the major scientific developments concerning IPS. This is made clearer by the excellent visual effects and the diagrams in the video." " I found the video to be very interesting and informative. It clearly highlights the potential of studies in the future; and the possibility of curing degenerative diseases from only one cell, which is a big step forward in science. " "I found the video very interesting, I didn't know anything about the topic before watching but it was explained very well." "i found the video to be extremely interesting and successful as it put forward the discoveries concerning ips cells in an informative yet interesting way. It was also great to see that even when something seems biologically impossible, groundbreaking discoveries can still be made and therefore we should always remain open minded. " "In my opinion everyone involved in making this video did a great job in helping raise awareness and make people understand the latest scientific discovery concerning the development of iPS cells. They managed to thoroughly explain the height of scientific potential for the future in a highly applaudable way, which again shows todays scientists proficient and dedication towards the betterment of the human race. " "I found the video to be very fascinating. It gave me a good understanding of what iPS cells are as it was explained very clearly and well. "

Cathkin High School, Miss Young's Int 2 Biology and S3 Biology

An excellent piece of research and a nobel prize is well deserved. It is so good to show pupils what is happening in the forefront of Science. Pupils enjoyed being part of a national screening and here are some of the comments, " I found this really interesting and I didn't realise just how clever people were. Scientists aren't really appreciated enough for discovering life changing cells/medicines. Really inspiring." "Really interesting how Scientists can reverse the process of cells. I would like to find out more. It's awesome!!". Thank you so much for providing schools with such a wonderful piece of innovative research.

Stem cells

Teacher: Miss Stevenson & Miss Ireland Class: Advanced Higher Biology This clip initiated great debate on the ethics and research on stem cells. Should we not be dealing with human population growth first? Should we let natural selection take its course? Should stems cells only be used for medicinal purposes? Overall, all pupils agreed that this is highly valuable research that has been done and that Shinya Yamanaka definitely deserved the Nobel Prize for his work. His outstanding contribution to science open up exciting new potential for biomedical science. It was a thought provoking clip that was portrayed in a manner that was accessible for all pupils. Pupils agreed that Science will naturally evole and new technologies will result and the technology should therefore be used to benefit mankind and other organisms.

Kirkcaldy High School

Fascinating viewing! Such a hot topic! This is the kind of cutting edge technology we should be opening our young peoples minds to, to capture their interest and help them build a bigger picture of the type of scientific research which is currently taking place around them! Nicola Dempsey, Biology teacher at Kirkcaldy High School, Scotland

George Heriot's School

Lots of positive comments about the research but some wondered about implications for ageing and whether there might be issues there. They were all intrigued by the developments since they didn't realise these things could be done. This was a different type of news which could give hope to people suffering from various conditions. They definitely thought it was cool, incredible and revolutionary.

St. Columba's High School, Gourock

"Awesome", "scary", "amazing" - just some of the comments from my Higher Biology class. The video has sparked a great deal of discussion and questions. The general consensus is that the advances in this area could not even be imagined a few years ago. Lots of ethical issues discussed also, however the iPS research actually removes many of the ethical issues surrounding embryonic research. We agreed that the video would also be good for RMPS classes. More info about how sperm and eggs could be made from iPS cells would be good. Teacher - Collette McGeehan

Higher Biology - Largs Academy

A genuinely amazing video. Here are some of the thoughts and questions from the class: Pros The ability to quickly develop new medicines and treatments Reduce transplant issues Cons Frightening that you only need the basics of biology to carry out the process Overpopulation. Questions! Will I be able to live forever? Does this mean men are truly unnecessary? Emotions Creeped out, concerned, scared, amazed, fascinated, worried, EDUCATED!!!

Largs Academy

I showed this film to a Higher Biology class, an Intermediate 2 Biology class and a very bright S3 Biology class. Typical pupil responses included 'mind-blowing' , 'interesting and informative', 'inspiring'. The general feeling was one of hope for the future and for the potential to treat so many life threatening and debilitating conditions. You may have inspired another generation of future scientists too! Thank-you. Dr C.

Stem cell video

Mrs Millar (elgin Academy) - Pupils found it really intersting and there were a lot of debates into the need for males. They found the video easy to follow and found that they gained an insight into new research and stem cells, which allows them to look at the ideas with more knowledge to debate new issues that are being raised.

BIG View - keep your comments coming

We're really excited to see your fantastic comments. Lots of thoughtful, enthusiastic feedback and it sounds like you're all having fun watching the film. We're a bit jealous of the popcorn at Cedars School Greenock!

Students and teachers who haven't yet commented - tell us what you discussed and what you thought of the film before the end of today for your chance to win a copy of our Stem Cell Revolutions DVD!

Cedars School Greenock

Pupils in Advanced Higher, Higher Human and Higher Biology and Int 2. Amazing stuff - we watched this premier with popcorn! Definitely deserves a Nobel Prize. We think the scientists should have sounded a bit more enthusiastic in the video for such an incredible piece of work. Hopefully this discovery will lead to cures for many diseases!

IPS Video

St Joseph's College Dumfries We thought the process was awe insipiring. Genetics is a field many of us are now considering. The information in the video has shown us the application of some of the content of our Advanced Higher Biology class. Our class appreciated Dr. Yamanaka's ethical stance with respect to his research and his consideration of other ethical issues that might arise. This has made us realise that the field of genetics is only limited by our imaginations!

iPS Video: St Joseph's College reply

Hello students of St Joseph's College Dumfries! We're so pleased the film inspired you and connected well with your Advanced Higher Biology class. Good luck with your future careers as scientists!

S3 Biology Largs Academy

Mind blowing!!! A fascinating film and brilliant insight into the future of medicine and Science. 'The fact that cells can be reversed back to the sperm and egg is amazing and a good thing if it can be used to resolve infertility issues'

IPS – St John’s Academy, Perth

Have just had a great lesson using this film which certainly had the 'WOW' factor. Class were fully engaged and understood the implications of IPS cells in relation to tissue growth and transplant, development of drugs, infertility treatment. It generated much discussion and debate! It was felt that there was the potential to increase the human lifespan and the impact this might have on global resources e.g. space, food production etc. Concerns were raised over potential issues that religious groups might have. Questions included :- Could all cell related conditions eventually be cured? Are we heading towards immortality? What safeguards would need to be put in place when using IPS cell techniques? Teacher: Audrey McAuley

Inveralmond Community High School

Miss Grants Higher Class: As a group we thought the programme triggered our minds and lured us into the thought that in the future we could possibly , from a single skin cell, create a human life. They were very interested on the whole about stem cell research. They also thought it was a great resource for understanding diseases that have previously had no cure.

Stem cell video, Dollar Academy , Advanced Higher Biology class

This was an eye opening documentary . The combined use of graphics and interview made it easy to understand the science behind iPS cells and also the ethical issues.. it did not try to influence us but gave us the information needed to form our own views. Very useful for pupils with interviews to study medicine at University looming as it provides them with information about an exciting and topical advance. We didnt know that stem cells could be used to make sperm and eggs!

Teacher name: Lucy Payne

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Great to see all your thoughts about this film. If you'd like to hear about future resources - films, lesson plans, games and more - from EuroStemCell then just sign up to our monthly e-newsletter here:

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Dunblane High School

Teacher:Dawn Gater; School: Dunblane High School; Comments: "Good move forward in Science but they needed to explain the benefits to people who need it better." "Was easy to understand- it is a complicated process and all of the diagrams helped" "Interesting - Cool to understand how our bodies work" "It was a good video as it covered all the stages of progression and gave an insight into the possible future developments of stem cells."

James Hamilton Acadeamy

James Hamilton Acadeamy- Very interesting, excellent animations showing how embryonic stem cells work-easy for pupils to understand. Generated good class discussion on the potential uses of this research. Good to show pupils an up to date resource on current research in Biology and show them the possibilities of research in this area. Thank you!

iPS cell video

Forres Academy; Teacher; Alastair Walker: Class comments: Ethical issues may be overstated - there were a lot of "could be" statements; the idea of stealing someones cells so you can have their baby is too weird; would a woman's cell be able to make a male baby?; the courage of the Shinya going against current thinking and being prepared to go back to basics is amazing; if this is a step towards eliminating animal testing altogether then if would be brilliant; Would we get immortal people if you can replace their worn out bits?

iPS cell video: Forres Academy reply

Hi Alastair and your students at Forres Academy. Thanks for your interesting and thoughtful comments. You raise some very interesting questions. Scientists and ethicists are thinking a lot about these kinds of issues, as of course are patients and members of the public, and lots of discussions about this very new science do use phrases like 'might' and 'could be' because there is so much still to learn about these cells. You might like to read our fact sheet on ethicial issues in the iPS era for more on things we will all need to think about if new treatments are developed using iPS cells. You can see the fact sheet here.

Largs Academy Int 2 Biology

Takes the whole of human science to a whole new level. Potential for treatment of serious diseases using stem cells without the use of embryonic cells.

Hermitage Academy in Helensburgh

Advanced Higher Biology class of Hermitage Academy in Helensburgh, teacher: Seonaidh McCombe. “I found the video really interesting and easy to follow.” “Keep the research coming.” “It’s good that one day we won’t need to use embryos for the research.” “I really liked the waterfall metaphor, that originally it was thought of as a one way system but now we can go backwards!!”.

iPS Stem Cells

Higher Biology - Largs Academy. Incredible scientific discovery as it provides hope for curing a lot of degenerative diseases with the use of common body cells. The strong positive we found from this is that there is no need to use embryonic cells and therefore eases a lot of ethical issues. Wonderful!

Largs Academy: ethics and stem cells

Hello to Largs Academy and thanks for your comments. iPS technology is certainly a wonderful discovery that may one day mean we don't need to use embryonic stem cells any more, but for now we do still need to study embryonic stem cells. You can find out more about this in our FAQ on embyronic stem cells.  You might also be interested in some of our material on ethics and stem cell research:

I hope you enjoyed the film and the discussion!

Stem cells-The future video

School-Whitburn Academy Teacher-Beverley Jessiman Class comments- "Fascinating video, really opened my eyes to what stem cells were and their benefits" "I was unsure about the potential to produce a human being from Stem cells" "This research will be excellent in studying things like Parkinsons disease (a relative has this)" "The video was easy to understand and I never really realised the length of time research took" "It amazing that many areas of biology will be affected by this discovery" "Really enjoyed it, I never really understood what stem cells were and why their was issues around research into them"

The BIG View is underway!

Thanks to Whitburn Academy and Largs Academy for getting us started with your comments on the film. Great feedback, thanks!

We're looking forward to more comments as students and their teachers watch the film throughout today. Don't forget to include in your comment:

  • Your school's name
  • Your name (the teacher)
  • Your class comments on the film (these don't have to be long, a couple of sentences will do).

We need your name and school to enter you into the prize draw for a DVD of our longer documentary, Stem Cell Revolutions.

Tweet about #nobelbigview

We're looking forward to comments on this page from schools participating in our BIG View of Stem Cells on 10th December  (see the details below). If you're not a teacher we'd definitely still love to hear what you think, although you can't enter the competition. Comment on this page or tweet us @eurostemcell using the hashtag #nobelbigview.

Looking forward to your views!


The BIG view of stem cells!

Here's what to do....

On Monday 10 December 2012 show our iPS film, "Stem cells - The future" to at least one group of students. Ask them what they thought of it: for example, what did they like/not like? what surprised them? what are their thoughts about iPS cells and how they should be used? what questions do they have? etc. etc.


Post a comment using the "add new comment" link above - include:

  • Your school's name
  • Your name (the teacher)
  • Your class comments on the film (these don't have to be long, a couple of sentences will do).

We will enter the teacher names into a ballot. 20 names will be selected to win a free copy of 'Stem Cell Revolutions'  - a documentary length film by the same makers. We will then post them out to your school for you to enjoy!

Ardnamurchan High School

Ardnamurchan High School Mrs Millar-Craig. Pupils found the video interesting and well put together. Mixed views on the animations but the content really made them think. They liked how Shinya Yamanaka explained his reasons for carrying out his research and felt that everything was very clearly explained. They were amazed at the potential of the stem cell research but also intrigued at how in solving one (ethical) problem a whole load of new ones arose.

Advanced Higher Biology

This clip initiated a discussion in class regarding ethical issues and how far should science go? This was a very thought provoking clip and the class agreed, scientific development should be used for medicinal purposes. A very worthy candidate of the Nobel Prize who opens up exciting new prospects for biomedical science. The Community School of Auchterarder. Gillian Stevenson and Julie Ireland (teachers)