Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Model Organisms in Biological Research

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Physiology and Biochemistry

DESCRIPTION Simple organisms have facilitated biologists to investigate disease at multiple levels, from the molecular to the behavioural. As advances in technology have facilitated rapid genome sequencing, model organisms have become crucial in revealing the function of the identified genes. Model Organisms in Biological Systems will introduce the student to the different biological systems and their application. The student will become familiar with biological processes relating to microorganisms, Sacchromyces cerevisiae, Caernohabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster, Xenopus laevis, Danio rerio, Mus musculus and cell lines, concluding with an introduction to translational medicine. The course will give a general overview of the model organisms, highlight their application and their place in the evolutionary tree. Taught sessions will be combined with demonstrations and an understanding of the ethics involved in the proper care of organisms. Historical landmarks will be provided together with the pros and cons of using a particular system of certain applications. The ethical and legislative issues will be discussed.

Study-Unit Aims:

The study-unit aims to assist students in gaining an understanding of the different biological systems that are available for the study of scientific principles related to health and disease as part of the process that leads to translational medicine. The objectives of this study-unit are:

- To provide an understanding the biology of the model organisms and biological systems;
- To explain how to choose the best biological system to study specific processes;
- To provide an understanding of comparative evolution;
- To explain the application of comparative evolution to genomic data;
- To demonstrate how to retrieve specific information from genetic databases on particular model organisms.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Define what a model organism and a host are;
- Demonstrate historical perspective on the use of the organism;
- Describe the benefits and limitations of model organisms in research;
- Describe biological characteristics pertaining to different model organisms and hosts;
- Discuss phylogenetic relationships;
- Explain when a model organism/host may be used;
- Describe the applications for specific model organisms;
- Propose the most appropriate model organism to address a particular biological or medical question;
- Gain knowledge on behavioural studies in mice.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Construct an evolutionary tree;
- Retrieve information from genetic databases and mutant collections;
- Interpret genotypes;
- Develop skills for critical analyses;
- Design experimental strategies;
- Communicate scientific information;
- Culture microorganisms;
- Plan experiments and include appropriate controls;
- Search scientific literature.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Jim Endersby. 2007. A guinea pig's history of biology, Cambridge USA Harvard University Press.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Practicum

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Report SEM2 No 10%
Presentation (15 Minutes) SEM2 No 10%
Examination (2 Hours) SEM2 Yes 80%

LECTURER/S Rebecca Cacciattolo
Gabriele Deidda
Giuseppe Di Giovanni
Gianluca A Farrugia
Melissa Marie Formosa
Gary J. Hunter
Therese Hunter (Co-ord.)
Maia Lanfranco
Massimo Pierucci
Jeanesse Scerri
Marita Vella

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2018/9, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.