2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

Molecules, Genes and Health


Spring 2013 quarter

Carolyn Prouty health science, public health, bioethics , James Neitzel biology, biochemistry
Fields of Study
biochemistry, biology, chemistry and health
Preparatory for studies or careers in
biology, chemistry, health professions and biotechnology.
Entering students should have two quarters of organic chemistry, and two quarters of biochemistry or cell/molecular biology. Students completing Chemistry of Living Systems in fall and winter will be well prepared for this program.

This program will explore the molecular events that determine the biological activity and toxicity of selected xenobiotic molecules--chemicals not normally produced by the body. These molecules include natural products, drugs and chemicals released in the environment by human activity. We will focus on specific molecules, which might include drugs like ethanyl estrodiol (birth control pill), natural carcinogens like aflatoxin, and other toxicants like BPA (bisphenol A). For each molecule, we will examine in detail the molecular mechanisms by which they act on cellular or physiological processes. How do chemicals treat a disease or cause cancer? Are all people (or species) equally sensitive to these therapeutic and/or toxic effects? How are chemicals metabolized and what molecular targets does a xenobiotic molecule alter? How are genes affected by chemicals and how do the genes affect the way the chemicals act or their fate in the body? Can we use molecular structures to predict which molecules may bioaccumulate and cause cancer, while other molecules can be easily detoxified and excreted?

To help understand the actions of these molecules, this program will examine biochemical pathways used in the transformations of these molecules. We will examine cellular signal pathways in detail, as the biological actions of these molecules are often due to perturbations of these normal signal processes. We will also use tools from modern genetics and bioinformatics to examine how genetic differences can influence the effects of these chemicals. This will include current research in epigenetics that proposes mechanisms that explain how prior environmental exposures can influence an organism's current health.

We will emphasize data analysis and interpretation obtained from primary literature reports or agency databases. Quantitative reasoning will be a major component of class examples, workshop and homework assignments. Embedded in these activities are principles of cell biology and biochemistry, organic chemistry, genetics, physiology and epidemiology. Students who take this program and Chemistry of Living Systems in fall and winter will cover all of the major subject areas usually covered in Molecule to Organism.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Upper Division Science Credit
All work planned for this program is designed so that students successfully completing program requirements will earn upper division science in all program areas.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
March 14th, 2013 This program is now accepting Sophomore students.