Pathways in Cancer, Cardiovascular Science, Experimental Medicine, Neuroscience, *Genetic Mechanisms and *Microbial Pathogenicity
*New pathways for 2013-14 (subject to final approval).
Web address: www.sheffield.ac.uk/molmed
Overview of the Course
Molecular medicine is the application of Molecular Biology and Molecular Genetics to the understanding of the aetiology and mechanisms of human diseases. Its objective is to develop a better understanding of disease processes and novel ways of diagnosing and treating diseases.
Our one-year MSc in Molecular Medicine is taught in the Medical School of one of the top 100 universities in the world. The course is designed for both animal/human biology and clinical graduates. The primary aim of the course is to teach the latest developments in this rapidly advancing field and to bring you up to date with the technical and scientific advances in biomedical science and therapeutic design. Several of the faculty who teach on the course have their own spinout biotechnology companies and we use speakers from the pharmaceutical industry to put our teaching into a commercial context. We also have strong contributions from our practicing clinical colleagues from all departments of the School of Medicine and further afield.
For the new academic year we are offering pathways in Cancer, Cardiovascular Science, Experimental Medicine and Neuroscience. We are offering an entirely new pathway in Microbial Pathogenicity and a pathway in Genetic Mechanisms, which replaces the Genetics pathway.
Why Study Molecular Medicine?
Molecular Biology has proved to be a rich source of new therapeutic agents in the last three decades. Recombinant proteins continue to be developed as successful drugs that principally target extracellular proteins such as cytokines and cell-surface receptors. Protein drugs are almost always injected. Bioinformatic data can now be used to identify new intracellular target proteins and investigate the networks of interactions that the target proteins participate in. It is becoming increasingly possible to model the surfaces of target proteins and use this information to model the interaction of low molecular weight, orally available drugs and even design drugs from scratch.
The completed Human Genome Project, and the developments in sequencing technology that it initiated, have opened up new ways to understand and treat human diseases. Single gene defects cause rare inherited disorders that can highlight the important pathways in common diseases. Discovering single gene defects is now trivial and can be completed with man-months of effort, when such investigations took man-centuries only twenty years ago. The new challenge is to understand common diseases such as cancers, heart disease and neurodegenerative disorders and to estimate their threat to individuals, based on the individuals' genotypes. In common diseases, environmental factors combine with inherited risks that are to influence the probability of developing a disease. The inherited factors have been assumed to be genetic variants but genes themselves can be modified reversibly in ways that alter their function and there is evidence that these epigenetic changes may be subject to environmental influences. Genetics also affects the effectiveness of drugs used in therapy. Individuals metabolise drugs differently. In cancer, mutated genes gain and lose function and it has been possible to identify subsets of cancers that have specific weaknesses that can be exploted therapeutically. For other common diseases, it will probably soon be possible to provide therapies that are tuned to an individual's specific genetic features, enabling physicians to optimise the treatment of a specific individual with a specific sub-type of a disease.
Our course aims to give you insights into all of these new developments and training in how to be a modern biomedical researcher.
To find out more about the core material and the optional pathways, please click on the following links:
The Taught Component
The taught part of the Course provides you with an understanding of both the background and the scientific methods that are used to investigate human diseases. We emphasise training you to understand how experiments and experimental programmes are actually designed and interpreted. We aim to present the most recent scientific developments in each subject area. The course is continually updated and modified to reflect changes in the emphasis of biomedical science and to improve our own delivery of the course.
The Course begins with Core modules that are appropriate to all specialities (click the sidebar for details).
We then offer you one of six specialist "pathways": Genetic Mechanisms, Microbial Pathogenicity, Cardiovascular, Cancer, Experimental Medicine and Neuroscience. Students decide on their pathway before the optional parts of the course begin in mid-January. Click the sidebar to investigate the contents of the pathways.
Modules are generally taught intensively and over a two-week period. Most of the teaching is delivered in the first week but generally we start on Wednesday so that the weekend (Saturday/Sunday) gives you an opportunity to catch up. Modules are continuously assessed by marked assignments.
A major objective of the course is to train you to formulate your own ideas and express them logically, and this will be tested in every module assessment. Many assessments involve writing essays. It is very important that you can express yourself in written English.
A five-month Laboratory-based project will also give you practical experience in
- Planning research
- Laboratory experimentation and record keeping, as well as
- Training in writing a substantial scientific document (your thesis)
Thus the course provides an excellent basis for entering PhD training and careers in research and many of our students go on to do a PhD (see sidebar).
The Student Experience
Over the past eight years, we have had 380 full-time students. In 2012-2013 our class of 59 consists of 15 UK home students, 7 from other EU countries and 37 international students. In all, 21 nationalities are represented!
The course includes:
• Taught two-week modules that are continuously assessed through essays and exams,
• Self-directed learning modules that are assessed through dissertations
• Five months of a practical project within a laboratory, which is assessed through a thesis,
• Continuous assessment and constructive criticism on all work throughout the year
Most of our graduates have gone to to careers in research, the biotechnology/pharmaceutical industry, academia or hospital-based laboratories (see the sidebar). The experience gained during the course is excellent preparation for a PhD in the UK or elsewhere.
What do you need to know before you start?
We assume that our students have a general background in the molecular biology of eukaryotes. Test yourself. Can you get a high score on our quiz?
We strongly recommend that you prepare your understanding of how the control of gene expression, from the regulation of genes to the modification of proteins, works in human (or other animal) cells. We particularly recommend the textbooks The Molecular Biology of the Cell by Alberts and colleagues or Molecular Cell Biology by Lodish and colleagues.
Please don't neglect to do this preparation otherwise you will be at a disadvantage when you begin the course, particularly so compared with students who do know this material.