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What to expect from your Medical Genetics course

Our Medical Genetics programme provides a unique opportunity to study medical topics within the context of classical, chromosomal, population and molecular genetics.

You’ll build a strong scientific understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of human health, development and disease, and explore the evolution of diseases within human populations. You’ll study the mitochondrial and human genomes in depth and be introduced to medical research, genetic counselling and bioethics.

We use a mixture of teaching styles: lectures, tutorials, classroom activities and laboratory work. A typical week will contain a mix of lectures, practical laboratories or workshops. Outside of classes, you’ll need to spend 20 to 25 hours per week preparing, writing up and reading.

In your final year, you’ll undertake a research or investigative project, assessed with a detailed written report, poster and interview.

To give you an idea of the topics you'll cover, in your second year, you’ll study Genes and Bioinformatics where you will learn how a gene is transcribed to produce RNA, how the RNA is processed and translated to produce protein and how these processes are regulated through other DNA sequences and proteins. An introduction to bioinformatics will explain how to recognise, compile and identify genes, and infer protein sequence, from DNA sequence, including procedures for interrogating public sequence databases and phylogenetic analysis.

Another of our core second-year modules is Human Genetic Disorders, which explores human hereditary disease in terms of genetics, pathogenesis, clinical features and clinical management. You’ll look at key examples of chromosomal abnormalities such as Trisomy 21; monogenic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy; and common diseases such as cancer.

You’ll be introduced to methods and techniques for identifying genetic loci associated with disease, such as homozygosity mapping, genome-wide association studies, and DNA sequencing. Finally, you'll discuss issues around genetic screening, testing and counselling.

What else is special about this subject?

Thanks to our wide array of optional second and third-year modules, you’ll have the freedom to tailor your Medical Genetics degree to your interests.

Optional modules complement the core curriculum, touching on a range of disciplines including biochemistry, immunology, physiology, reproductive biology, and neuroscience – so you’ll develop a broad base of scientific skills and knowledge.

Among our optional second-year modules is Basic Immunology, which covers the principles of innate and acquired immunity, as well as the structure and function of cells and organs of the immune system. Antigens, immunoglobins, complement, and immunoassays and the molecular basis of B-cell and T-cell responses are also covered. Other topics include transplantation, tolerance, autoimmunity, inflammation and hypersensitivity reactions.

In your final year, you’ll have the option to study Molecular Basis of Personalised Medicine. This module builds on basic information on the pathological processes and cancer biology provided in other modules to provide an in-depth analysis of the tools available to analyse heterogeneity in disease (gene expression arrays, SNP analysis, next generation sequencing), and how these can be used to stratify disease and then exploited to develop individualised treatments. It will examine strategies being developed to refine treatment programmes and also investigate how such analyses can be used to predict risk and so develop preventive strategies. 

Another optional final-year module is Cancer Biology. If you select this, you’ll study neoplasia, the macro and microscopic appearance of range of specific tumours, and current ideas on the molecular and genetic basis of their pathogenesis. You’ll learn about the causes of the transformation from normal to malignant tissue, together with the way in which tumours grow and spread. The module will end with an overview of tumour diagnosis and general methods of treatment (pharmacological, radiotherapeutic and surgical).

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