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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Deanery of Biomedical Sciences : Biomedical Sciences

Undergraduate Course: Neurodegeneration, obesity and cancer: genetics and beyond (BIME10032)

Course Outline
SchoolDeanery of Biomedical Sciences CollegeCollege of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIn modern societies, the increase in life expectancy is accompanied by an increased risk of aging-associated diseases such as obesity, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. These diseases pose enormous challenges in terms of life quality and economic burden so that it has become an urgent need for societies to address these health concerns. In an attempt to prevent or effectively treat these disorders, research interest in defining the molecular mechanisms underlying these diseases has been particularly intense. We will consider how studies on a variety of animal models have contributed to our growing understanding of the molecular basis of these diseases. In presenting the cellular processes that are disrupted in neurodegenerative disorders, obesity and cancer, particular emphasis will be given to molecular commonalities existing between these diseases, which, at a first glance, seem to have very little in common. We will also critically evaluate the advantages and pitfalls of every model system and the importance of using a variety of different models to gain a thorough understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying the pathogenesis of a given disease. This course will also highlight how the generation of disease models has made possible high-throughput genetic screens and large-scale proteomic and transcriptomic profiling both in health and disease states. Finally, we will discuss how computational analysis and experimental validation of these large data sets can lead to the identification of a large number of new disease-related genes and, possibly, to the development of innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
Course description The course includes introductory lectures on the major cellular processes disrupted in cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and obesity. Particular emphasis will be given to mitochondria dynamics and RNA metabolism as emerging evidence indicate that these processes are common themes in the pathogenesis of these apparently divergent diseases. Among the neurodegenerative disorders, the role of animal models in prion diseases and in the motor neuron disease spinal muscular atrophy will be presented and critically evaluated. We will consider how a combination of computational analysis together with large-scale genetic and proteomic approaches on experimental models can streamline the identification of new genes and cellular processes involved in the pathogenesis of these diseases.
The course will have an ICA component. Students will be asked to outline an experimental approach to elucidate the role of a gene in a specific human disease. As a starting point, preliminary information on the gene and a few specific articles will be provided to the students. Each student will be required to give a 20 min presentation on this experimental outline in front of a committee of two lecturers.
Staff members involved in the teaching are: Dr. Andrew Gill, Prof. Tom Gillingwater, Dr. Mandy Jackson, Dr. Giusy Pennetta and Dr. Tom Wishart.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  24
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 38, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 154 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assessed through ICA
Feedback Feedback will be given after the summative in course assement
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Discuss and critically appraise the current state of understanding of relevant topics in the fields of neurodegeration, obesity and cancer with specific emphasis on RNA metabolism and mitochondrial dynamics. This LO will be addressed in both ICA1 and ICA2 by asking questions and proposing papers that focus on these specific topics.
  2. Understand major molecular and biophysical aspects of prion biology, the pathophysiology of humans prion diseases and critically evaluate the possibility that prion-like mechanisms may underlie more common human neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson┬┐s disease. This LO will be assessed mainly in ICA2 by requiring to write a preview on a paper covering prions and prion-related diseases.
  3. Demonstrate a deep and critical knowledge of how genome-wide genetic screen, large-scale biochemical approaches and computational analyses in research models can lead to the identification of novel genes and molecular pathways involved in the pathogenesis of complex human diseases. This knowledge will be assessed especially in ICA1 by asking the student to design and defend an appropriate experimental protocol in order to assess the causative role, the phenotypic effects and mechanisms of action of disease-related genes.
  4. Analyse, evaluate and critically discuss published data on disease mechanisms and incorporate them into the existing body of knowledge in the field. This LO will be assessed especially in ICA2 by requiring students to write a preview on 2 out of 4 selected papers which cover the main scientific topics of the course.
Reading List
Lotti, F., Imlach, W.L., Saieva, L., Beck, E.S., Haole, T., Li, .D.K., Jiao, W., Mentis, G.Z., Beattie, C.E., McCabe, B.D. and Pellizzoni, L. (2012). An SMN-dependent U12 splicing event essential for motor circuit function. Cell. 12;151: :440-454.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserDr Giuseppa Pennetta
Tel: (0131 6)51 3201
Course secretaryMr Christopher French
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