BMS326 - Modelling human Disease

Module Co-ordinator: Professor M. Placzek


This unit aims to provide students with an understanding of, and an ability to critically evaluate, the way in which current concepts in developmental biology are impacting on the field of pathobiology, degeneration and regeneration. Students will experience how new tools and technologies that have emerged from contemporary developmental biology are being translated into the clinic, and to improvements in understanding, and treating, human disease.

The module will provide experience of,

(a) the interface between developmental biology and pathobiology
(b) analysis and interpretation of primary research papers.


This unit aims to provide students with an understanding of the way that post-genomic developmental biology is impacting on our ability to understand, and treat, human disease. Students will be introduced to some of the major experimental systems and approaches that are pertinent to disease modeling. These include genetically-tractable animal model systems, in vitro cellular systems, including stem cells, and bioinformatics. The principles involved in establishing how these systems can be exploited to develop new strategies for regeneration, and the prevention of degeneration, will be explored. Lectures will be interspersed with critical evaluations of primary research papers, so that students gain experience of analyzing experimental work, data presentation and interpretation of results.


By the end of the unit students will be able to:

  • reveal how classical and contemporary concepts in developmental biology underpin our understanding of human disease
  • explain the serious consequences of morphogenetic/migratory dysfunction to human disease
  • explain the major animal model, cell culture and bioinformatics systems that are impacting on our understanding of human disease
  • explain the major technical advances that lead to novel therapeutic strategies
  • analyse and interpret research papers which describe key concepts in the field.

Teaching Methods

Background information that covers key concepts will be covered in lectures. These will be interspersed with specialized lectures and audiovisual presentations that are clinically oriented, or oriented around a particular disease/therapy. Details will be obtained from reading recent research articles (reading lists will be provided) and tutorial sessions held, in which articles will be critically appraised and analysed. Critical discussion will be encouraged.


Students will be expected to provide evidence of their knowledge-base (obtained from course reading and lectures) by writing a detailed, integrated examination answer of contemporary ideas in pathobiology and demonstrate understanding by illustrating how current techniques and tools are being applied to specific examples of disease processes, pathobiology and targeted therapies.