Best analogies for stem cells
for public outreach

I’m often asked, “How can I help people get stem cells with an analogy?”

What are the best stem cell analogies? Here are the ones I’ve thought up that resonated most powerfully in my public outreach, including with kids.

Stem cells as blank tiles in Scrabble.

They can literally be what you want them to be if you use them properly.

They are extremely powerful.

They can make things happen.

They can change things up.


Stem cells as Transformers

They are cool.

They can transform into all different kinds of things.

They are exciting.

They are mighty.

They can do positive or negative.

Stem cells as a tree or tree trunk.

They can grow.

They can branch out.

They can bear fruit.

They are a symbol of hope.

In Portuguese, “stem cells” is “células tronco,”

which literally translated means “trunk cells.”

Paul Knoepfler Paul Knoepfler is an associate professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine. He received his bachelor’s degree from Reed College and his Ph.D. in molecular pathology from the University of California, San Diego. He did his postdoctoral work at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle as a Jane Coffin Childs fellow. He received the Howard Temin Award from the National Cancer Institute shortly before starting his own lab at UC Davis. The Knoepfler lab research focuses on stem and cancer cell epigenomics with a particular interest in Myc and histone variants. This article first appeared on Knoepfler’s blog.