Skip to main content


MMB8014 : Genetics of Common Disease

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Heather Cordell
  • Lecturer: Dr Marc Woodbury-Smith, Professor Ann Daly, Dr Anna Mitchell, Dr John Mansfield, Professor John Loughlin, Dr Christopher Miles Morris, Dr Ian Wilson, Dr Joanna Elson
  • Owning School: FMS Graduate School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module aims to address a major area of current medical research and to provide students with an understanding of the strengths and weakness of both the current subject knowledge in this area and the practical approaches to it. Understanding the genetics of complex disease has been identified as a major post-genome challenge. The module aims to equip Level 7 students with the necessary skills to understand and develop research strategies to investigate the inheritance of complex diseases.
Specific aims are:

•       To inform students in genetic variation and the genetics of non-Mendelian (complex) disease.

•       To introduce students to the different strategies and information input required to identify genes in complex diseases.

•       To compare the various practical approaches used to identify the genetic basis of common disease and to elucidate the role of genes in common disease.

•       To outline the relevance and utility of genetic investigations to understanding the pathogenesis of common diseases.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will cover:

•       Genetic variation and the definition of complex genetic diseases.

•       How to identify and assess the heritable component of a complex disease.

•       Selecting and applying different research strategies.

•       Linkage versus association analysis.

•       Genome-wide association studies.

•       Data/results interpretation and use of computer packages for performing statistical genetic analysis

• Pharmacogentics.

•       Knowledge of key examples of complex diseases, including examples such as: Crohn’s disease, Diabetes, Oesteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease, Autism.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture201:0020:00Lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical32:006:00Practicals
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching31:003:00Tutorials
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching31:003:00Seminar
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity301:0030:00Additional Reading and Reflective Learning
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study501:0050:00Preparation for Examination
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study481:0048:00Preparation of Notes from Lectures and Reading
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study201:0020:00Preparation and submission of PC Assessment
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study201:0020:00Preparation and Submission of Short Essay
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Interactive lectures will provide the students with a specific knowledge as a platform for private study. Together with computer practicals and seminars/tutorials these lectures will encourage the students to reflect both individually and in small groups on the state of knowledge in research in complex diseases. Students will practice critical appraisal, data analysis and interpretation during the computer practicals. Tutorials will encourage the students to reflect on their learning. All of these activities relate directly to the learning outcomes above.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination601A50Unseen examination with 1 essay from a choice of 3 options
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Computer assessment1M30Open book assessment of practical/analytical skills.
Essay1M20Max 1000 - 1500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The unseen written examination tests the student’s knowledge base, comprehension and ability to discuss the subject knowledge critically. The computer analysis exercise tests application of knowledge, understanding and ability to critically evaluate and interpret a given data set. The essay tests the student’s comprehension and ability to discuss the subject knowledge critically.

PC Assessment

Open book assessment of practical/analytical skills involving statistical data analysis. Data set to be provided. The students will be given the data set and a worksheet (suggesting the various analysis approaches to be used) and will have one week in which to perform the analysis and to write up their findings. The analysis itself should take around 2-3 hours, with another 2-3 hours required for writing up.


Critical appraisal of a key recent paper in the field, to be chosen from a choice of a minimum of 8 (max 1000 - 1500 words).

Reading Lists