University of Malta

MSc Biomedical Sciences
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Master of Science (Biomedical Sciences):             

Dr Godfrey Grech
Prof. Alex E Felice
Head of Department: Dr Bridget Ellul

The M.Sc. course in Biomedical Sciences is intended to provide an advanced level of education, training and research for graduates in Medicine, Medical Laboratory Science and any other area of study deemed relevant by the Board of Studies, and enables candidates to acquire advanced knowledge and research skills that could be employed in a variety of settings, academic, clinical and industrial. The course is particularly intended for graduates in Medical Laboratory Science and related Life Sciences, but it is also intended for Medical graduates who wish to train in the various specializations offered or practice in other laboratory based clinical areas and gain experience in bio-medical research.

The Malta College of Pathologists encourages and supports the pursuit of a postgraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences and successful graduates will benefit from a ONE year (1) exemption from the required Postgraduate Training Programme for such specialty.

The course shall be offered with the option of Streams in designated areas currently being:
Molecular Biology and Genetics (A. E. Felice)
Haematology (G Grech)
Neuroscience (R. Muscat)
Neuroscience Research (R.Muscat)
Blood Transfusion Science (A. Aquilina )
Microbiology (C. Barbara)


Examples of Research Projects:

Candidate:   Mr Mario Farrugia

Supervisor:  Dr Godfrey Grech

Enhanced efficacy of bioactive compounds: Targeting isoprenylation in cancer cells to mediate apoptosis.The mevalonate pathway has a central role in signal transduction regulating cell survival and apoptosis. The rate limiting enzyme in this pathway is HMG CoA reductase (Hmgcr), which is regulated at multiple levels. In a wide variety of cancers, isoprenoids are potent inducers of cell apoptosis. However, effective doses were poorly tolerated in clinical studies. The main objective of this project is to optimise anti-cancer treatment with isoprenoids by establishing a combinatory treatment. The scientific innovation involves the proposed combination therapy of isoprenoids and rapamycin (immunosuppressant and anti-cancer drug CCI-779). Rapamycin is expected to enforce apoptosis induction upon treatment of cancer cells with isoprenoids, hence enhancing the therapeutic index.


Candidate:   Mr Neville Borg

Supervisor:  Dr Godfrey Grech

The sensitivity of mTOR signalling to Igbp1 negative feedback pathway with potential implications in leukemogenesis
The decision of a haematopoietic progenitor to proliferate (multiply) or differentiate into a mature function cell, depends on the need. Growth factors play an important role, triggering a cascade of signals within the cell to execute a particular program.  In previous studies we used a growth factor sensitive cell line to investigate the key signals to promote proliferation.  We identified a pathway (PI3K/mTOR) that is required for haematopoietic progenitors to proliferate. Disregulation of this pathway is involved in leukemogenesis.  In addition we were able to induce a block of erythroid progenitor differentiation by increasing the expression of one player of the pathway, namely Igbp1. The major aim of this proposal is to identify (i) the modulation of mTOR pathway by enhanced Igbp1 expression in the erythroid system and (ii) the function of Igbp1 in different haematopoietic lineages. This will shed light on a potential therapeutic target and molecular classification of this complex disease.


Candidate:         Mr Kevin Vella

Supervisor:        Prof. Marie Therese Camilleri Podesta

Co-supervisor:  Dr Godfrey Grech


In vitro investigation of anti-ostroporotic bioactivity of extracts from indigenous plants and investigting whether these induce an oestrogen growth factor response.

Our current research interest is focussed on identifying substances prepared in our laboratory from indigenous plants and identifying the active substances within them which could be used as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). While the usefulness of HRT in osteoporosis is well established, it has been shown to carry serious long-term risks including that of breast cancer. Hence the need to identify phytoestrogens that induce osteoblast (MC3T3-E1) cell line differentiation without inducing an oestrogen growth factor response in the breast cancer cell line (MCF-7) We propose to investigate the transcription activation of oestrogen targets using the above mentioned extracts as compared to oestrogen addition. 


Candidate:         Ms Alison Gauci

Supervisor:        Dr Neville Vassallo


Identification of plant-derived polyphenols acting as inhibitors of lipid membrane perforation by neurodegenerative peptides

Amyloidogenic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and prion diseases are major neurological conditions with an increasing prevalence rate in the general population. These disorders are characterised by misfolding, aggregation and accumulation of amyloid proteins inside or outside cells. A unifying characteristic of these molecules is that they bind to target membranes and assemble into multimeric, membrane-spanning pores, a process that leads to synaptic degeneration and neuronal cell death. The aim of this research project is to identify small-molecule polyphenolic compounds, most of which are found naturally in plants and plant-derived beverages, that would potently inhibit the membrane permeabilising activities of these aggregated peptides. The first step will thus involve developing protocols for the generation of prefibrillar oligomers. This will be followed by the use of a robust liposome assay to quantify the inhibitory effect of polyphenolic compounds on the leakage of vesicular contents induced by the oligomers. Furthermore, it is intended to test the most promising compounds directly on neuronal culture and/or on mitochondria isolated from neuronal cells. In conclusion, the proposed research programme makes use of the structural diversity of natural products for discovery of novel compounds that could be useful in the chemoprevention of these late-life neurodegenerative disorders.

Last Updated: 19 February 2010

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