The main objectives of the course are the understanding of the molecular bases and the knowledge of the biochemical pathways and gene networks that regulate cell differentiation during male and female gametogeneses and during preimplantation development, together with the understanding of the technologies employed for the manipulation of the genome and the production and manipulation of stem cells.
Course contents summary
Where does the stem cell pluripotency, in particular that of the embryonic stem cells, originates? Which are the biochemical pathways and genetic networks that regulate and modulate the process of differntiation into different cell lines? How can we experimentally intervene to modify and direct this differentiative potential? These are some of the main questions that will be address during the course. The course will describe our knowledge on the cytological and molecular processes involved during both male and female gametogeneses , preimplantation development and during the differentiation into the earliest cell lines present in the embryo.
Also, the main techniques use for the manipulation of the genome and the applications of these technologies in both the biomedical and veterinary fields will be described, together with the problems arising from their use.
The course will describe the fundamental aspects of:
- Origin of sexual reproduction and sex determination
- Cell cycle and meiosis
- Cytological and molecular aspects of spermatogenesis
- Cytological and molecular aspects of oogenesis
- Acquisition of the oocyte developmental competence
- Cytological and molecular aspects of fertilisation
- Engineering the ovarian follicle
- Cytological and molecular aspects of preimplantation development
- Micromanipulation of the preimplantation embryo
- Origin of stemness
- Sources of stem cells
- Markers of embryonic stem cells
- Pathways and stability of embryonic stem cells
- Genome stability, plasticity and reprogramming
- Differentiation and clinical use of embryonic stem cells
- Farm animal transgenesis and cloning: biological background, history, techniques.
- Biomedical applications: animal as bioreactors; animal as models of human and mammalian diseases; genetically modified animals and xenotrasplantation.
- Zootechnical application of genome transgenesis and cloning: animal growth modification; milk and body composition modification; disease resistance modification; reproductive performances modification.
- Social and economic implications of genome manipulation: animal welfare; food safety issues related to genetically modified foods; functional foods.
- Stem cell biology. Mesenchymal stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells: biology and clinical applications. Perspectives and limits.
The students will be given articles and the slides used by the teachers.
Before each new lesson, the teacher will first summarise then check whether the previous topics have been well understood through an interactive discussion with the students.
Assessment methods and criteria
At the end of the course, the students must be capable of discussing critically and with the appropriate language on the molecular bases of mammalian reproduction, preimplantation development and on the biology of the embryonic stem cells. Also, they will have understood how the manipulation of the genome and the use of stem cells may impact on both fields of medicine and animal production. The students will have to be able to discuss the advantages, but also the limits of the technologies, including the ethycal and the animal well-being issues. Furthermore, the students must be capable of making links between these knowledges and those complementary of the veterinarian.