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PSC2002 : Membrane Transport and Cell Signalling in Health and Disease

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Michael Gray
  • Lecturer: Dr Alex Laude, Dr Tarek Mamdouh Abdelghany, Dr Harley Stevenson-Cocks, Dr Tim Cheek, Professor Andrew Trevelyan, Dr Catherine Arden, Dr Michele Sweeney
  • Owning School: Biomedical, Nutritional and Sports Scien
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module aims to develop knowledge and understanding of two topics central to our understanding of life processes: membrane transport and cell signalling. The properties, structures and functions of key mechanisms that underlie membrane transport and cell signalling processes will be explored, particularly in relation to epithelial tissues. Consideration will be given to the impact of malfunctions in these processes leading to disease states, along with how this knowledge can be used to design drug therapies for treatment of these diseases. Practical techniques used to study these processes will also be described.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module consists of two themes. The first theme of the module covers membrane transport, with a particular focus on transport in epithelial cells, and considers:

1. The fundamental principles that govern transport of essential solutes and water across biological membranes

2. The molecular structure of key membrane transporters that underlie these transport processes

3. The physiological role of these transport processes in cell function, including epithelial cells that perform specialized transport functions e.g. gastrointestinal tract, exocrine glands and kidney

4. How sequential membrane transport across epithelial cells underlies absorption and secretion by these organ systems

5. Tools available for studying ion transport in epithelial tissues both in vitro and in vivo

6. How disruption of membrane transport processes, such as occurs in cystic fibrosis and multi-drug resistance, may give rise to serious diseases in humans

7. Practical experience in techniques used to study ion transport

The second theme of the module covers cell signalling, and considers:

8. Important means by which mammalian cells sense and respond to their environment

9. How they communicate with each other through second messengers such as cyclic nucleotides and calcium

10. Cellular and molecular mechanisms used to interpret the signals they receive

11. Tools available for studying cell signalling

12. The role of insulin signalling pathways in health and disease

13. How dysfunction in cell signalling processes underlies many important human diseases

For both parts of the module there will be a strong emphasis on relating the knowledge gained from understanding these life processes to the development of new pharmacological and cell-based treatments for important human diseases.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture251:0025:00PIP
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion125:0025:00Practical / lab report 1
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical13:003:00PIP - One practical of 3 hours
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching51:005:00PIP Seminars will consist of case reports, data interpretation and Q&A sessions
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00Essay Writing Guidance Session - Synchronous online
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1140:00140:00Includes reading and writing up lecture notes
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures impart new information regarding fundamental principles of core information and an indication on the scope of the course as a basis for guided independent study.

The seminar sessions will encourage an increased understanding of lecture material and primary literature through discussion, as well as introduce students to data analysis and interpretation.

The practical class will provide experience in recording and analysing biological data to support the core knowledge, carrying out scientific calculations, developing computer-based presentation skills.

Guided independent study will be used for self-directed learning, including further reading and preparation for assessments.

Public health contingency:
Lectures and seminars can/will move to online either as synchronous or non-synchronous delivery.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
PC Examination601A40Invigilated exam (60 mins) MCQ (60 questions)
Written Examination601A40Online 24 hour take home open book essay (1 question from a choice of 2) 800 words.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M20Structured laboratory report (1000 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The MCQ and written examination will test the student’s knowledge and understanding of taught material and additional reading.

The practical session and report will allow students to demonstrate their capacity to perform experiments, analyse and present experimental data in a scientific manner (using appropriate computer software programs) and to draw appropriate conclusions. Work during the practical session will encourage development of verbal and written scientific communication skills.

Public health contingency:
Invigilated exam can/will move to online (24-hour take-home exam), timed (60 mins) – MCQ paper

Reading Lists