Taught section (5 months)

The initial 5-month taught section will concentrate on basic leading to advanced concepts of molecular and cellular biology. The lectures will progress to cover gene expression and Disease, and molecular genetics and disease. This allows approximately 2 weeks in February for revision, followed by one week of examinations. During the 5-month period, students will have the opportunity in supervised practicals to try or see demonstrated important molecular biology techniques. There will also be demonstrations of instrumentation and relevant computer programs for research.

Topics covered include:
  • Nucleic acids
  • RNA transcription
  • protein synthesis and processing
  • gene expression
  • recombinant DNA
  • vectors
  • transfer of genetic information
  • polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA sequencing
  • genetic engineering
  • immunochemistry
  • protein structure and X-ray crystallography
  • mass spectrometry
  • glycobiology
  • molecular biology databases and computation
  • basic immunology
  • gene mapping technologies

It is not intended to comprehensively cover all aspects of the diseases mentioned but rather to concentrate on the application of molecular biology to the discovery, diagnosis and management, and also to concentrate on areas of expertise at Hammersmith and Imperial College.

Topics covered include:
  • Gene structure and expression of complement
  • growth factors
  • differentiation factors
  • cytokines
  • hormones and regulatory peptides
  • viral gene expression
  • oncogenes
  • tumour suppressors
  • cell cycle control
  • signalling pathways
  • apoptosis
  • bacterial pathogenesis
  • genetic basis of cancer
  • viruses in cancer
  • leukaemia
  • haemophilia
  • breast cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • invasiveness
  • multiple drug resistance
  • cancer vaccines and gene therapy
  • diabetes
  • cystic fibrosis
  • muscle cell disease
  • infertility and in vitro fertilisation
  • lipoprotein metabolism
  • endocrine disorders
  • genome structure and inherited disorders
  • gene targeting
  • viral diseases

Practical techniques

These will cover basic methods leading to more advanced cDNA and expression library construction and analysis, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques, introduction of foreign DNA into E.coli and expression of proteins in mammalian cells, and siRNA interference in insect cells.

Research project (6 months)

The projects will be carried out in the Imperial College Faculty of Medicine departments at the Hammersmith, St. Mary’s, Charing Cross, and South Kensington campuses, subject to approval by all concerned. Each student will be assigned a research project and will be selected such that a student can be reasonably be expected to make an original contribution to the chosen area of research within the time period allotted. The purpose of the project is to provide the student with training in academic research and acquisition of practical skills, including the design of a research project, planning of experiments, dealing with practical problems, recording, presenting and analysing data. Time will be allocated towards the end of the project period to write a report of 10,000 words.

Examples of research projects undertaken by students include

  • An Investigation of the Mutations causing X-linked Dyskeratosis Congentia
  • Analysis of the Role of Specific DNaseI Hypersensitive Sites in the Regulation of the Mouse .5-VpreB1 Locus
  • Development of c-Met and M0cadherin Specific reagents using Phage Display Technology
  • Investigation on the Role of ARA70 in Prostate Cancer Characterisation of a Novel Zinc Finger Gene ZnFx5 involved in Neural Development and Apoptosis
  • Analysis of the Chromosome 7 q-arm for Imprinted Gene effects in Silver-Russell Syndrome
  • An Investigation into the Effects of Agonists on Glut-1 Gene expression in Cardiac Myocytes
  • Functional Analysis of the AF4 Gene Involved in Leukaemia
  • Expression and Function of the Fas Death Receptor in Oligodendrocyte Cell Lines
  • Gene Knockouts in vitro Mediated by Double-Stranded RNA: Silencing Genes Implicated in Breast Cancer