BIOLOGY OF STAMINAL CELLS AND THERAPEUTICAL APPLICATIONS
Learning outcomes of the course unit
The course is understood as a direct in-depth study of knowledge of cell biology, histology and developmental biology, with mention of pathological aspects in which the normal functions of the cell and the tissue in which it resides are altered, and also how these alterations can be repaired by means of cell therapy approaches. More specifically, the course is aimed at imparting in-depth knowledge of intrinsic biological characteristics and of the potential of therapeutic manipulation of particular cellular elements present in vertebrates and known as stem cells. The course discusses the characteristics of stem cells present in the adult individual and also those that form the early embryo.
Candidates must have passed the Cell Biology course of the three-year programme. Passing the Developmental Biology course held as part of the Biotechnology Degree is also considered particularly helpful but is not compulsory.
Course contents summary
The course aims to cover the following topics:
1) scientific and operational definitions of stem cell, multipotentiality, lineage, transdifferentiation and tissue homing;
2) anatomical and histological localization of stem cells and investigation methods for identifying them;
3) similarities and differences between embryonic and adult stem cells;
4) the prototype of the stem cell - the hematopoietic stem cell;
5) the mesenchymal stem/progenitor cell of bone marrow stroma;
6) nerve tissue stem cell;
7) peculiarities of stem cells of the skin, intestine, lung, liver and muscle tissue;
8) in-depth study of methods for ex vivo manipulation of stem cells;
9) stem cells as biological instruments for the repair of damaged and/or degenerating tissue (tissue engineering);
10) stem cells as modulators of the auto-immunological response (autoimmune diseases) and allogenic immunological response following a transplant of cells and organs;
11) Potential use of stem cells for anti-neoplastic therapy.
Since there is no specific text that fully discusses the topic, the following thematic monographs (present at the library of the Dipartimento di Biologia Evolutiva e Funzionale [Evolutionary and Functional Biology Department]) are recommended as educational aids. They are to be combined with popular lecture notes produced by foreign research institutes and with review articles published in international scientific magazines that will be provided during the course.
The course is interactive and requires the student's active participation. Final assessment of the individual student therefore bears in mind his/her in-course activity. The final test consists of a 15-20 minute presentation and discussion (preferably in PowerPoint form) of a topic chosen by the student during the final stages of the course. It is understood that the topic in question must be particularly topical and pertinent to the thematic content of the course.