Science at the heart of medicine

8008 Special Topics in Molecular Genetics

COURSE DESCRIPTION: The aim of the course is to acquaint students with scientific literature and progress in selected focused areas of biological research. The topics to be treated will vary from year to year depending on the interests of the teaching faculty. Each year, several topics will be covered in short modules. Lectures may be presented, but a primary focus will be discussion of important background articles and current research papers. Through in-depth analysis of the literature on specific topics, the student is expected to gain a broadened knowledge, increasing appreciation of the process through which scientific understanding develops, and an improved ability to critically read and analyze the original research literature.


HIV-1 Host Restriction factors—an alternative to the HIV-1 Vaccine 

Dr. Felipe Diaz-Griffero 

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Despite a great deal of effort by private and public research institutions, we still lack a prophylactic vaccine against the HIV-1 virus. The development of an HIV-1 vaccine has been hindered by challenging issues, including the extraordinary diversity of the virus, the inability to generate broadly neutralizing antibodies, the early creation of a viral reservoir, and the ability of the virus to evade humoral and cellular immune responses. Even though investigators have tried for 20 years to induce an immune response against HIV-1, nature deals with lentiviral infection such as HIV-1 very differently. Nature utilizes restriction factors, endogenously expressed proteins, to inhibit or decrease the replication of lentiviruses such as HIV-1. This section will discuss literature that will explore in depth the genetics, evolution, biochemistry and the mechanisms used by host restriction factors such as APOBEC3G, TRIM5, SAMHD1, CPSF6 and MX2.

From molecules to mind; molecular analysis of neuronal circuit formation and function in health and disease 

Dr. Robert Townley

Department of Biochemistry

Complex human behaviors arise from the collective activities of one or more simple neural circuits. Our understanding of the molecular networks that control the formation of neural circuits and the role these circuits play in cognition and memory are central to neuroscience. Over the four sessions, participants will read and discuss current research papers addressing the topics of memory storage in simple circuits, synapse evolution in the human lineage, and development of the neural circuitry underlying a complex trait. For the third topic, readings will be drawn from the recent literature on autism. Each of the papers exemplifies a modern molecular genetic approach to understanding nature. Emphasis will be placed on critical reading and discussion of the motive, methods, results, interpretations, and implications of each of the papers.


PREREQUISITES: Molecular Genetics or equivalent.

SUITABLE FOR 1ST YEAR STUDENTS: Appropriate for: second year students. First year students may seek permission of the course leader. Attendance and participation by more senior students, postdocs and faculty is welcomed. This 1 credit course is not intended to satisfy the requirement that students take one or more advanced courses beyond the core curriculum, courses such as Advanced Mammalian Genetics, Developmental Biology, Developmental Neuroscience, and so forth. Registering students will be asked to specify what other advanced course(s) they are taking.

UNIQUE TRAINING OFFERED IN THIS COURSE: This course should emphasize (but needn’t be exclusive) current papers. Students will be lead in considering in some depth a highly focused, currently exciting and advancing research area. One aim is to help the students appreciate the process of research itself.

STUDENT ASSESSMENTS: Students enrolled for credit will be evaluated according to their attendance and participation in discussion. Class size is limited.