Molecules in Medical Science
The structure of the MIMS course
The understanding, diagnosis and treatment of disease is increasingly grounded in the molecular biosciences. The human genome sequencing project is but the beginning - the challenge for the future, the post-genomic era, is to make biological sense and medical practice from the galaxy of data acquired. Your Molecules in Medical Science (MIMS) course aims to establish the principles and knowledge base of biochemistry and medical genetics - to give you the means to build your understanding of living things at the molecular level as both you and medical science progress. We want to convey how molecules, large and small, cooperate so that our cells are able to utilise food as fuel, to produce and respond to messengers that enable communication and coordination between different tissues, and to replicate their genomes faithfully and express them selectively. We also discuss how natural genetic variation can give rise to mutant genes, how this can cause both single gene and multifactorial diseases, how the natural transmission of genes occurs and what can go wrong and when, and how these errors are inherited by individuals and in populations.
Students will automatically be registered for a virtual learning environment called CamTools. Course materials are available on the course Camtools site and you will be told when to collect your course handbook in your first week in Cambridge.
MIMS is taught by means of lectures, laboratory-based exercises with linked discussions and presentations and problem-based learning organised by the Biochemistry Department and also supervisions organised by your college.
The course is organised around two themes: ‘Metabolism in Health and Disease’ for the Michaelmas Term and ‘Macromolecules in Health and Disease’ for the Lent and Easter Terms. We shall present the core material in the setting of two diseases which are important in medicine and veterinary medicine - diabetes and cancer.
Lectures are in the Babbage Lecture Theatre on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays
Full timetables are on the MVST website
Each lecturer will distribute a handout. Our general policy for the handouts is that they should reflect the structure of the lectures, and make compact statements about key features: tricky points may get additional explanation. The handouts should contain copies of all significant items displayed during lectures: they are not a literal script of the lectures, and don't include extended commentary or background reference information.
To get most out of the lectures and make your learning an active process, we recommend that you take your own notes irrespective of the nature of any particular handout. This will also help with later consolidation and as you prepare for the examinations.
The practicals and discussions
These are compulsory and you must sign in to register your attendance.
Biochemistry and molecular biology are experimental science subjects. The services of clinical biochemistry laboratories are also an integral and important part of medical diagnosis. The course includes practical experiments for you to gain some insight into how laboratory investigations are carried out and how data are processed and interpreted. It is important that you take time to understand the underlying principles and context of the practicals, and also to evaluate the results that you obtained. To facilitate this, there is a separate 2-hour session for discussion and presentation of results for each practical. These are lead by senior demonstrators, but students will also sometimes be called on to present findings to the group. Discussions are a vital part of the course and are your best bet for fully understanding the practicals.
Problem-based learning (PBL) exercises
These are compulsory and you must sign in to register your attendance.
These structured exercises are intended to develop your skills of investigation in ‘researching a topic’ and in reporting the results. Each exercise has a launching session that is followed two weeks later by a reporting session. There are two PBL exercises, one in the Michaelmas Term and one in the Lent Term. There are separate sessions for medics and vets.
Student feedback and representation
We shall seek your views about the course by means of questionnaires and liaison meetings with your representatives each term. We take student comment very seriously in course development. Questionnaire analyses and minutes of the liaison meetings are publicised on the course Camtools site.
- the molecular architecture of eukaryotic cells and organelles, including membrane structure and dynamics;
- the principles of bioenergetics and enzyme catalysis;
- the chemical nature of biological macromolecules, their three-dimensional construction, and the principles of molecular recognition;
- dietary requirements of man and selected domestic animals;
- the metabolism of dietary and endogenous carbohydrate, lipid, and protein;
- the principles and major mechanisms of metabolic control and of molecular signalling by hormones;
- the control of cell proliferation;
- how the DNA in a genome is organized, replicated, and repaired;
- how genetic information in the DNA is selectively expressed as functional proteins;
- how genes are transmitted between generations, and how and when errors can arise;
- how natural polymorphism and genetic variation can give rise to mutant genes, and how these genetic errors are inherited;
- how inherited genetic errors can cause both single gene and multifactorial diseases and the consequences of this inheritance for individuals and populations;
- the tools used in molecular genetics, and their potential applications to medical and veterinary science;
- from their own laboratory practice, the experimental dimension of the molecular approach to biology;
- the significance for clinical and veterinary practice of the molecular approach to medical science;
- an awareness of the ethical aspects of molecular science.
- demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the molecular machinery of living cells;
- demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the principles that govern the structures of macromolecules and their participation in molecular recognition;
- demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the principles and basic mechanisms of metabolic control and molecular signalling;
- use basic laboratory skills and apparatus to obtain reproducible data from biochemical experiments;
- implement experimental protocols, and adapt them to plan and carry out simple investigations;
- analyse, interpret, and participate in reporting to their peers on the results of their laboratory experiments;
- participate in and report orally on team work investigations of problem-based assignments;
- build on their knowledge and understanding in tackling more advanced and specialised courses, and more widely to pursue independent, self-directed and critical learning.
Outline of the MIMS lecture course
Important note. This information is not intended to be a comprehensive list of contents.Lecturers will all issue their own handouts, and may vary the topics and the order in which they are presented.
Michaelmas Term - Metabolism in Health and Disease
Dr Yeo PROLOGUE: DIABETES (2)
The aim of the Prologue is to illustrate the molecular basis of medicine, to anticipate the main topics covered in the first term's lectures and to introduce terminology, within the context of diabetes as a common metabolic disease.
- Case studies, illustrating typical presentation of diabetes.
- Definition of diabetes in terms of hyperglycaemia; diagnosis by glucose tolerance test.
- Classification, causes and treatment of type 1 (juvenile) and type 2 (maturity onset) diabetes; other forms of diabetes; diabetes in animals.
- Historical perspective on Banting and Best and the discovery of insulin.
- Acute manifestation of diabetes as a metabolic problem reflecting lack of insulin action.
- Long term complications of diabetes resulting from chronic hyperglycaemia
- Statistics on prevalence of diabetes and obesity and cost implications for health care.
- Structure of insulin, as an example of a small protein.
- Carbohydrates and lipids as fuels; metabolic pathways for their oxidation.
- Introduction to regulation of metabolic pathways by cellular energy charge or hormonal signals ; allosteric regulation and covalent modification of enzymes.
- Insulin biosynthesis and secretion.
- Actions of insulin on carbohydrate, lipid and protein metabolism.
- Insulin receptors and glucose transporters as examples of membrane proteins.
- Introduction to mechanism of insulin action & signalling via protein kinase cascades.
- Obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes; why is insulin action impaired by obesity?
Dr Monie BIOLOGICAL MACROMOLECULES, PROTEIN STRUCTURE AND ENZYME CATALYSIS (6)
After an introduction to macromolecules, the lectures concern understanding of the structure of proteins and how structure influences function. We will focus particularly on enzymes, seeing how they catalyse reactions and how this activity is controlled. We will study examples of the structures of medically relevant enzymes and see how knowledge of their structure and function helps to understand disease and develop inhibitors that act as drug molecules.
Lecture 1. Introduction of macromolecules.
The major macromolecules in the cell will be introduced. We will learn about the monomeric building blocks (monosaccharides, nucleotides, amino acids) and the functionally critical polymers they form (polysaccharides, nucleic acids, proteins).
Lectures 2-3. Structure and function
The principles and different levels (primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary) of protein structure will be introduced. We will learn how the structure of a protein is determined by its amino acid sequence and how amino acids interact with one another to form the structural elements that make up the final protein structure. The role and use of prosthetic groups and co-factors will be introduced as will methods of studying protein structure. Protein function will be introduced through specific case studies, such as HIV protease and haemoglobin.
Lectures 4-6. Enzyme function and control
In these lectures we will focus on proteins as enzymes (biological catalysts). We will investigate the thermodynamic necessity for enzymes; the kinetics of enzyme activity (Michaelis-Menten); and the classification and characterisation of enzyme function. In addition, the mechanisms by which enzymes catalyse biological reactions will be explored, as will the various ways in which enzymes can be controlled. The design of specific enzymes inhibitors as therapeutics will be discussed.
Dr. R. W. Broadhurst, Prof. P. Leadlay. BIOENERGETICS AND METABOLISM (8)
- Mitochondrial respiration and oxidative phosphorylation
- ATP couples exergonic catabolism to endergonic anabolism.
- How oxidation is coupled to phosphorylation by mitochondria.
- Overview of the electron-transport chain.
- Some comments on individual redox cofactors.
- Experimental background to the ordering of the electron-transport chain.
- Structure and function of the complexes of the electron-transport chain.
- How the proton motive force drives the ATP synthase to make ATP.
- How the proton motive force drives transport in and out of mitochondria.
The metabolic fates of glucose and fat after feeding
- Importance of blood glucose concentration and insulin.
- Cameos of fuel economies of gut, liver, muscle, adipose tissue, brain.
- Uptake of glucose and its conversion to fuel stores.
- Formation of acetyl-CoA from pyruvate.
- Biosynthesis of fatty acids from acetyl-CoA.
- Biosynthesis of triacylglycerols (‘fat’).
- Digestion of dietary fat: formation and fate of chylomicrons.
- Role of other lipoproteins in transferring triacylglycerol from liver to adipose tissue
The fuelling of muscle contraction by carbohydrate and lipids
- Mobilisation of glycogen: glycogenolysis.
- Fates of pyruvate: reduction to lactate (anaerobic) and oxidation to CO2 (aerobic)
- Mobilisation of triacylglycerol: lipolysis.
- Fatty acid transport to muscle and -oxidation to acetyl-CoA.
- Citric acid cycle and oxidation of acetyl-CoA to complete carbohydrate and fat oxidation.
- Formation and use of ketone bodies.
- Control of fuel storage and oxidation
- The interplay of insulin and the catabolic hormones glucagon and adrenaline.
- Principles of metabolic control.
- Control of glycogen synthesis and breakdown.
- Control of fatty acid and triacylglycerol synthesis.
- Interplay of short-term acute control and longer term adaptive control.
- Control of lipolysis in adipose tissue.
- Control of glycolysis and citric acid cycle.
- Amphibolic role of citric acid cycle.
- Fasting and gluconeogenesis; aspects of amino acid metabolism
- Fuel needs of brain and how met in fasting by liver making glucose and ketone bodies.
- Amino acids in gluconeogenesis and ketogenesis.
- Control of gluconeogenesis.
- Ketosis and diabetes.
- Overview of metabolic roles of amino acids and of amino acid catabolism.
- The importance of aminotransferases and glutamate dehydrogenase.
- The urea cycle.
- Amino acids and the supply of methyl groups and other ‘one-carbon’ fragments for biosynthesis.
Dr Pereira – Nutrition (2)
Lecture 1. Vitamins and trace elements.
Key concepts in micronutrient nutrition
Vitamins and trace elements, their biological roles and nutritional requirements. Micronutrient deprivation and deficiencies.
Lecture 2. Oxidative stress and phytochemicals.
Oxidative stress and antioxidants.
Risk/benefit balance of micronutrient supplementation.
Prof. Taylor MEMBRANE DYNAMICS AND CELLULAR SIGNALLING (5)
These lectures are being revised extensively. While the overall topics covered will be as below the details and organisation will be different. An updated outline will be posted later in term.
Lecture 1. Protein trafficking, secretion and endocytosis.
- Secretion and endocytosis.
- Importance of protein trafficking for maintenance and synthesis of intracellular structures.
- The diabetes context: insulin synthesis and secretion.
- Structure of the endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus and plasma membrane, emphasising their dynamic nature and interrelationship.
- Secretion Concept of targeting sequences. Consideration of organelle-specific targeting, protein processing, role of cytoskeleton and motor proteins. Outline of molecular events in secretion.
- Endocytosis Pinocytosis and endocytosis in coated pits leading to lysosomes or recycling to plasma membrane. Example of LDL receptors.
Lectures 2-5. Hormonal signalling
- Recognition of water-soluble hormones by surface receptors generates a signal inside the cell. The lectures will give an understanding of the key elements of the nature of some of the signals, how they are generated and removed, and how the cell interprets them as a part of its function.
- The three basic types of receptor, how they work and why: ligand-gated ion channels, G-protein coupled (7 transmembrane domain), and tyrosine kinase.
- The role of trimeric G-proteins in signal transduction, illustrated by control of adenylyl cyclase activity to produce the 2nd messenger cyclic AMP. Actions of cyclic AMP to illustrate protein phosphorylation as a transducing mechanism.
- Simple introduction to cyclic GMP and nitric oxide.
- Hormonal activation of phosphoinositide hydrolysis and elevation of Ca2+ concentration by inositol trisphosphate.
- Action of diacylglycerol to activate protein kinase C.
- Phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate as another lipid second messenger.
- A brief outline of Ca2+ regulation and its importance as a 2nd messenger.
- The operation of tyrosine kinase receptors, illustrated by the (typical) PDGF receptor and the insulin receptor.
- Receptor families and the concept of more complex signal transduction cascades involving protein kinases.
- A complex signal transduction cascade exemplified by the pathway from the insulin receptor to the stimulation of glycogen synthesis.
Dr Yeo EPILOGUE (1)
The aim of the Epilogue is to draw together aspects of the term's lectures, as they relate to insulin structure and function and the causes of diabetes.
- Mutations in glucokinase or the insulin receptor as rare causes of diabetes.
- Central role of protein phosphorylation (tyrosine and serine) as a regulatory mechanism.
- Glucose transporter isoforms: an example of horses for courses.
- Causes of type 2 diabetes revisited: defective genes or foetal programming?
- Prospects for novel diabetes therapies: where should we be looking?
- Understanding the obesity epidemic: a major threat to public health.
- A brief look at leptin and mechanisms regulating appetite and energy expenditure.
Lent Term. Macromolecules in Health and Disease
Dr T Littlewood. PROLOGUE: CANCER AS A MOLECULAR DISEASE (2)
The lectures provide a general introduction to cancer that requires minimal background knowledge.
Lecture 1. Cancer incidence and development
- Cancers occur in many distinct forms but are characterised by common features.
- Major human cancers: Incidence and mortality in the U.K. and worldwide.
- Cancer defined.
- The process of tumour development: vascularisation: metastasis.
- Cancer primarily a disease of (somatic cell) genetic mutation.
Lecture 2. Cancer
- Introduction to oncogenes: mechanisms of activation.
- Tumour suppressor genes.
- Inheritance of genetic predisposition to cancer.
- Micro RNAs: oncogenes and tumour suppressors.
Dr L. Pellegrini ORGANISATION, REPLICATION AND REPAIR OF THE GENOME(5)
Lecture 1. Organisation of DNA in the genome
- DNA is the genetic material.
- Chemistry and structure of the DNA double helix.
- Dimensions and scale of the DNA double helix.
- How do you fit 2 metres of DNA into a 10 micron diameter nucleus?
- Different levels of compaction.
- Nucleosomes, nuclear scaffold, chromosomes.
Lecture 2. How DNA is replicated
- The double helix as a template. Semiconservative replication.
- DNA polymerases, requirement for substrates, primers and template.
- Ensuring accuracy - proof reading.
- Discontinuous replication and Okazaki fragments.
- Origins of replication - the replication fork.
- How genomes are replicated.
- The problem of linear chromosomes and the solution – telomeres.
- Sequencing DNA – classical methods and massively parallel sequencing.
- Polymerase chain reaction.
Lectures 3-4. Information content of DNA
- What is a gene?
- What is gene expression – cDNA libraries and microarrays?
- The human and other genome projects – genomic libraries, sequencing and sequence assembly.
- How many genes make a human?
- Differing sizes of genomes.
- Not all DNA encodes genes.
- Junk DNA?
- Repetitive DNA, microsatellites, hypervariability and fingerprints.
- Mobile genetic elements.
Lecture 5. Change and constancy of DNA
- DNA modifications and epigenetics.
- Mutations and how they arise.
- DNA damage and its consequences.
- Mechanisms of DNA repair.
- DNA repair and cancer.
- How DNA rearrangements can be a good thing.
Dr Miska - TRANSCRIPTION, TRANSLATION AND CONTROL (5)
Lecture 1 Transcription in prokaryotes and its control
- Course overview – The Central Dogma
- What is a gene? What is mRNA?
- Basic mechanism of RNA synthesis (transcription)
- Regulation of transcription
- The lac repressor and the catabolite activator protein (CAP)
- Antibiotics that inhibit prokaryote transcription
Lecture 2 Transcription in eukaryotes and its control
- RNA Polymerases
- Eukaryotic promoters and upstream regulatory elements
- Regulation of transcription
- Roles of chromatin
- Enhancers and response elements
- Tissue-specific and developmentally regulated transcription factors
- Transcription factors and cancer – cFos/c-Jun, p53
Lecture 3 Pre-mRNA processing - from pre-RNA to mature mRNA
- ‘Polishing’ pre-mRNA
- 5’ Capping
- Termination and polyadenylation
- RNA splicing
- Alternative splicing
- Anomalous splicing and cancer – Wilms tumour
- Making cDNA and genomic libraries
Lecture 4: Translation - Protein synthesis
- Control of mRNA stability
- Genetic code
- tRNA structure and charging with amino acids
- Ribosomes and polysomes: structure and function
- Initiation of translation
Lecture 5: Translation continued – Elongation, termination, degradation
- Control and termination of translation
- Antibiotics that target the translational machinery
- Protein degradation – the lysosome and the proteasome, ubiquitin.
- Gene expression studies, arrays and cancer
- MicroRNA, siRNA and RNAi
Dr Laman and Dr D’Avino CONTROL OF PROLIFERATION AND DEATH IN CANCER CELLS (3)
Lecture 1. The clockwork of the cell cycle
- Phases of the cell cycle: G1, S, G2, and Go
- Cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinases regulate cycle phase-transition.
- Cyclin B and cdk1 (cdc2): the G2-M transition.
- Substrates of cdk1 in cytoskeleton, nuclear membrane and chromosomes.
- APC/C (the anaphase-promoting complex): servant and master of cyclin B.
- Events driven by other cyclin-dependent kinases.
- Cyclin D and Rb (the retinoblastoma protein).
- E2F-1 and G1 progression.
- The cyclin D/Rb/E2F pathway and carcinogenesis: action on cell proliferation and death.
Lecture 2. Controls of progression into and through the cell cycle
- Extracellular signals that activate cell cycle entry: growth factors, tyrosine kinases, ras, the MAP kinase and PI3-kinase pathways.
- The pre-replicative protein complex: constraints on inappropriate initiation of DNA replication.
- Checkpoints at G1-S transition, G2-M transition and during spindle formation.
- Activation of checkpoints: cytokines (e.g. TGF), injury, hypoxia.
- p53 - guardian of the genome.
- Cell cycle controls, checkpoints and carcinogenesis: mutations of p53, ras, MAP kinase pathway oncogenes.
Lecture 3. When checkpoints fail: apoptosis and carcinogenesis
- Basic mechanisms of apoptosis.
- Caspases and their substrates.
- Signalling to the caspase cascade: mitochondrial and membrane receptor pathways.
- The bcl-2 family.
- Phenotype of cancer: the undead cell.
- Many mutations are required for carcinogenesis.
- Virus proteins, carcinogen-induced mutations, inheritance in cancer susceptibility.
- Overall summary.
Dr Mott MOLECULAR RECOGNITION (2)
The aim of these lectures is to understand how molecules interact with one another within the cell. We will consider the basic principles of molecular recognition, focusing on examples from growth factor response pathways and antibody mediated recognition.
Lecture 1. Principles of molecular recognition
- How the structure of a protein allows it to perform molecular recognition.
- Bond formation in recognition.
- Conformational changes and reversible covalent modification.
- Protein recognition of specific DNA sequences.
- Illustration of these principles by considering growth factor response pathways.
Lecture 2. Antibodies
- Antibody structure and function.
- How monoclonal antibodies are produced experimentally.
- Use of monoclonal antibodies in cancer therapy.
Dr Crowther GENETICS in human and animal medicine (5)
Lecture 1. Tracing genes and chromosomes
- Problems of human genetics -small family sizes, long generation times.
- Tracing the inheritance of single gene traits through pedigrees.
- Autosomal and sex-linked inheritance , dominant and recessive alleles.
- X-inactivation in female mammals.
- Mitochondrial inheritance.
Lecture 2. Locating genes to chromosomes
- Meiosis and gamete formation.
- Independent segregation of genes on different chromosomes.
- Linkage of genes on the same chromosome.
Lecture 3 Building chromosome “maps”
- Genetic markers -tracing genes by changes to DNA or protein sequence.
- Protein markers(blood groups, haemoglobins), and DNA based markers (microsatellites and SNPs).
- Detecting linkage in pedigrees- The importance of linkage studies in human genetics.
- Finding and studying the genes which contribute to disease.
Lecture 4. How genetic variation and environment determine phenotype
- Animal coat colour genes- combinations of alleles in several different genes give different phenotypes.
- Multifactorial inheritance, where several genes co-operate to produce a phenotype.
- The multifactorial basis of common mid-life diseases.
- Why twins and affected sibs are important for these studies.
Lecture 5. Genes in populations
- Relating phenotypes to allele frequencies- the Hardy –Weinberg equation.
- Selection in action- Malaria and sickle cell haemoglobin.
- Host pathogen interactions in bacterial and viral disease.
- Evolution of multiple drug resistance.
Prof A Venkitaraman MESOLOGUE. CANCER THERAPY (1)
The lecture draws together the cancer theme so far developed, including therapeutic approaches, and looks forward to the final group of lectures on genetics.
(That’s why we have called it a mesologue, rather than an epilogue - in case you wondered.)
Easter Term. Macromolecules in Health and Disease, continued
Dr Sargent. GENETICS in human and animal medicine, continued (4)
Lectures 6-9 Introduction to the study and understanding of genetic disease
Lecture 6: Understanding the genome at the chromosomal level
- Speciation and chromosomal number
- Impacts on fertility
- Using karyotypic information to identify disease-causing genes.
- Sex chromosome and autosomal anomalies.
- FISH as a technique to identify changes in the karyotype
Lectures 7 and 8: Understanding the genome at the DNA sequence level
- Variation in the genome defines our differences
- How the genome's information is used depends upon developmental stage of the organism and which tissue we investigate
- Generating a reference genome; genome sequencing strategies, genomic libraries, cDNA libraries.
- Using the reference genome to understand the molecular basis of disease
- The impact of the genome projects and combining information from linkage studies and sequencing studies
- Analysing the candidate genes.
- Types of disease-causing DNA mutation.
- Methods of mutation screening, including DNA sequencing, PCR, Southern blotting, and methods for assessing copy number loss and gain.
Lecture 9: Understanding the impact of genetic mutation
- Sequence conservation across species allows us to use model systems to understand disease processes
- Using our knowledge in practice
- Where might genomics take us in the future?
Reading for MVST Part IA Molecules in Medical Science (2012-13)
Most of these books should be available in your College library, but to give as many students as possible an opportunity to use them on a regular basis, the Department of Biochemistry also keeps copies of them in the Part I book collection of the Colman library (in the Biochemistry building on the Downing Site, opposite Pembroke College Founders’ Court) close to the Library office. Selected books may be borrowed overnight from this library collection; others may be consulted during the hours that the Biochemistry Department is open (0830 - 1700, Monday –Thursday, 0830-1600 Friday). The Assistant Librarian can help to locate the books. There is limited seating in the library for Part I students and we have to give priority to Biochemistry students on the Part II and Part III courses. The Genetics Department Library also has reserved copies available for consultation but not for loan.
Books recommended for use in the MIMS course
The three titles listed will feature in lectures and handouts when links to text books are made.
- Voet, D., Voet, J. G. & Pratt, C. W. Principles of Biochemistry. 3rd edition, Wiley, 2008
This excellent text is superbly illustrated. It includes much medically relevant material within a clear and straightforward account of mainline Biochemistry. It includes a CD-ROM. Recommended for purchase.
- · Turnpenny, P and Ellard, S. Emery's elements of medical genetics, with student consult online access, 14th edition, Churchill Saunders Ltd, 2011 (£34.99)
Integrates basic science and clinical elements of genetics, recently updated and includes access to full text on-line. Well illustrated. Recommended for purchase.
- Alberts, B. et al. Essential Cell Biology, 3rd edition, Garland, 2009 (£49.99)
This strictly is a Cell Biology text but it covers many aspects of modern biochemistry and molecular cell biology, although without so much on the "structural" side. It helps set the information in the MIMS course in a wider biological context, and should be particularly useful for those who have not studied Biology to GCE ‘A’ level, or an equivalent. Recommended for purchase, but give priority to Voet et al.
There are good Web sites that give further information about these books, and contain useful onward links.
Voet, Voet and Pratt.
Principles of Biochemistry
Mueller and Young. Emery’s Elements of Medical Genetics
Alberts et al. Essential Cell Biology
Other good texts
There is no shortage of good Biochemistry texts.
One of the most widely used and also recently updated is:
- Berg, J., Tymoczko, J. and Stryer, L. Biochemistry. 7th edition, Freeman, 2011 (£53.99)
A quite recent edition of another standard text is:
- Nelson, D. Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry, W.H.Freeman, 5th edition, 2008 (£53.99)
A well-written and clear introduction to methods of gene cloning and manipulation that does not assume previous experience is:
- Howe, Christopher. Gene Cloning and manipulation. CUP 2nd edition 2007 (£31.00)
Another good medical genetics book with clinical relevance is:
- Strachan, T and Read, A. P. Human Molecular Genetics, Garland Science, 4th edition, 2011 (£49.00)
This excellent book concentrates on illustrating general principles with selected examples, but is quite advanced and comprehensive. It explains the special problems encountered in human genome analysis and the methodologies used to construct genetic and physical maps of the human genome. The new edition includes animal models and enters the "post-genome" era.
A more elementary medical genetics book with clinical relevance is:
Read, Andrew and Donnai, Dian. New Clinical Genetics. 2nd edition, Scion publishing, 2010 (£31.99)
And a general introductory textbook of Medical Biochemistry:
- Baynes, John W and Dominiczak, Marek, H. Medical Biochemistry. 3rd edition, Elsevier, 2009, (£47.99)
For veterinary genetics:
- Nicholas, F. W. An Introduction to Veterinary Genetics. 3rd edition, Blackwell’s Science, 2010 (£38.99)
For a quick overview of factual material - useful for revision
- Hames, B. D. et al. Instant Notes in Biochemistry. Bios, 3rd edition, 2005 (£20.00)
- Turner, P. C. et al. Instant Notes in Molecular Biology. Bios, 3rd edition, 2005 (£20.00)
Other sources of information
Since MIMS is an introductory course dealing with core material, we have not specifically listed more advanced and specialised texts. However, perusal of catalogues and shelves in College and departmental libraries will give you an idea of what else is available. Also, the recommended textbooks all contain suggestions for further reading. Lecturers and supervisors can also guide you if you find particular topics fascinating and wish to know more. While we are keen to encourage further independent reading, we are also aware that too much information in first year courses can be indigestible.
Research-oriented summaries (2-4 pages) of important topics are contained in monthly journals of the “Trends” family - Trends in Biochemical Sciences (usually known as TIBS), Trends in Cell Biology and Trends in Genetics. The Scientific American usually contains at least one molecular bioscience article per issue, and is well worth a glance. Copies of these journals are held in the Biochemistry Library. We suggest that you explore these occasionally, as you get into the course, to get a taste of the frontier. Go for the gist, rather than the detail.
Ever more useful source of information. A useful address, which has many forward links is Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM).
For veterinary interest, there is also Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals (OMIA), maintained by F. W. Nicholas, author of the veterinary genetics textbook noted above.
Assessment is by examination at the end of each year. There are multiple choice questions, data analysis questions and essays.
Detailed examination information is provided on the MVST course website
The formal structure of the examination is described in a form and conduct notice
Some advice about the examinations is available in the course handbook on Camtools. You can collect a printed copy of this in the first week.
Past examination papers are available on Camtools.
Advice on examination skill has been published by the Faculty of Biology
Here are some rather informal hints and comments that may be helpful in different degrees to most of you. Remember that Medical and Veterinary Students’ Handbooks also include advice about learning. You need to integrate for yourselves all the ‘wise words’ (that’s the intention anyway) that you get from many sources. Remember your Director of Studies will be happy to help you. The University Transkills portal gives access to lots of useful resources
To state the obvious – the University is not like a school
The transition from secondary education to higher education has to be anticipated and worked at. You the student have responsibility for your learning and work patterns outside the set timetables. Your college supervisors will provide guidance and encouragement, but only you can actually do the work needed to attain the necessary knowledge and understanding of your subjects. Your supervisors will set you some tasks, but don’t regard the week’s work as over once you have completed them. It’s not a good idea to do the minimum during term in the hope of catching up in the vacations: that simply doesn’t work. You sometimes need to take comments from second year students with a large pinch of salt! It’s important to keep up with the courses as they develop, and continually to review how new material relates to topics already covered – biomedical sciences are highly integrated.
The medical and veterinary courses cover a year, and are not modular: there is a University examination (MVST Part IA) at the end of the year, which will require you to write essays as well as to answer multiple choice questions and to analyse and interpret data. Past papers are available on Camtools
Procrastination: I’ll do it tomorrow - really! Well - you might. But if you don’t you get chased eventually. Edward Young, an 18th century poet, wrote ‘Procrastination is the thief of time’. Make a start today, decide how to go about it. Make a plan. Then you’ll feel better, and get off to a good start - tomorrow. Here’s another quotation: ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ – today’s problems are enough for today!
The essay crisis: A rite of passage. Everyone has at least one. Supervisors will be understanding, provided it doesn’t become a way of life. Don’t let a backlog of set work build up, supposing you can catch up in the vacation. You’ll have consolidation to do then. Do a decent job on the essay, but don't spend ages trying to go for total perfection. There is a ‘law of diminishing returns’ that anyone tempted to spend their resources on high-end HiFi should be well aware of.
But I’ve got to - train, row, rehearse, go home/Oxford/London, make up, break up etc. Yes - life has to be lived. But work is part of life. Plan and prioritise. Sometimes unexpected urgencies have to be coped with, and people will understand. But try to plan your commitments - keep a diary /appointment book (and don’t lose it!)
It was only 5 pints… The statistics on ‘substance misuse’ by Doctors are alarming - especially if you are a patient. Don’t start young to form a pattern that you can’t get out of. Beware of binges!
Learning and Understanding
Do I need to know this? It is very common for beginning students to ask ‘do I need to know this?’ - after a lecture that may seem to have delivered a term’s worth of ‘A’ level in 50 minutes. You shouldn’t see lectures and practicals as giving a list of items that have to be ‘learnt’ in the sense of memorised in totality. Often lecturers will include topical examples of general principles, or mention a recent discovery that’s just been published – this is not for you to ‘learn’, but to excite your interest and transfer their enthusiasm to you.
Your first priority should be to concentrate on ‘understanding’, on building a mental framework that you can tie ‘facts’ to. That will help you prioritise what you really do need to know well, as part of the vocabulary of the subject - whatever it may be. After a while you’ll find that ‘facts’ stick to the framework without conscious effort on your part to ‘learn’ them.
Lots of stuff will be useful in many contexts. It’s much easier if you can relate new material to a framework of understanding. Tie information and understanding together. Only connect… (E. M. Forster, Howards End).
It’s not like ‘A’ level! Nor should it be! ‘A’ level is an important step towards higher education, not a final parking place for the mind.
Is there a syllabus? More an agenda - not all of whose items have equal weight. We have included the ‘Aims and Objectives’ of the course in this handbook, but not as a tick list of factlets.
How do I know that I know? Try it out. Talk to each other. Imagine explaining signalling or genes to your relations. Write down six important things about DNA (or whatever) on the back of an envelope, and then check them. Ask your supervisors. Be alert to feedback from supervision written work.
There’s too much to learn! If it seems like that, assess your priorities. Understanding is the thing! Try to communicate your understanding to others. Nothing like having to teach something to get you to understand it: students ask very sharp questions!
Horizons: Lift your eyes to them from time to time. What would you like to do in your third year? As you move through the course, you’ll become more intellectually self reliant and an image of what sort of Vet or Doctor you want to be will gradually come into sharper focus.
Fear of calculations: Sometimes encountered! It’s seldom difficult, for example, to convert raw data into a useful format. But there may be many steps to perform. Be clear about what you have to do, and why. Understand the algorithm (look it up - it’s not a typo for logarithm!). Make sure that you keep track of the units that you are using, that you don’t confuse amount with concentration, and can deal with dilution from stock solutions into mixtures. Practice helps of course, as do yellow sheets. Seek help from your supervisor if you have problems with numeracy and calculations. It’s very important for clinicians to be basically numerate. You don’t want to prescribe or administer a therapy with incorrect doses (drugs, radiotherapy etc). See the Essential Maths exercises on Camtools for extra practise.