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How to build an organism: Intro to Development and Stem Cell Biology

Session B: July 27 – August 6, 2020
1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Lauren Anllo

How do cells orchestrate their movements and arrangements to form an embryo? Why are stem cells required for developing an organism? How can scientists begin to answer these questions, and why are the answers advancing modern medicine? This course explores the cell behaviors that enable development of an embryo. We will discuss how cells are able to alter their shape and adhesion to one another, and how they send signals to communicate. We will also learn about the role that stem cells play during development, and in adult tissues. At the end of the course, we will join in guided discussions about the use of stem cell therapies in medicine. This course is an opportunity for excited students to explore key concepts in developmental biology that are relevant to both cell behavior and health, and to discover how scientists learn about this visually beautiful field.

Course Format: Our course will be held as live, synchronous sessions on Zoom (weekdays July 27th-August 6th 1:30pm-4:00pm). Materials relevant to each session will be accessible within Canvas modules. Zoom sessions will combine small group activities, class discussions, videos to illustrate visual content, and live lecture with opportunities to ask questions. A portion of the course will be experienced as a remote lab activity, while you virtually join me to collect and view fly embryos under the microscope!

Zoom sessions will be recorded and posted for later viewing to help with internet connection issues, and review. Also, PowerPoint Slides will be uploaded to canvas modules.

Learning Outcomes:

As we progress through this module, you will grow towards being able to:

  • Identify and describe the function of cell components that are relevant to cell movement, adhesion, and signaling.
  • Discuss broad arrangements and movements of cells during development of an embryo.
  • Derive various ways that cells can communicate with one another through signals.
  • Discover and discuss specific examples of how cell movement, adhesion, and signaling are relevant to embryonic development.
  • Explore how scientists can observe, study, and ask questions about embryonic development.
  • Define what a stem cell is, and what a stem cell niche is/does.
  • Locate where we can find stem cells in adult animals, and infer stem cell functions.
  • Contemplate why stem cells are important in adult organisms.
  • Discuss the relevance of stem cells to medical research.

Assignments: All will be posted to Canvas, along with relevant deadlines and expectations.

Readings: Occasionally, class discussions will be supplemented with reading activities. I will always use Canvas Assignments to indicate which reading excerpts are required, and when you should read them. Other readings linked to Canvas modules will be optional, for reference or clarity.

Prior to Class, please click the link to download EO Wilson's Life on Earth (free iBooks):

  • Unit 2: Guided Tour of the Living Cell
  • Unit 4: Animal Physiology

Campbell Biology, 10th edition readings will be posted to Canvas modules and assignments.

Problem Sets and Activities: All classes will incorporate active learning-based activities and group work. Some group work will be started individually outside of class time, and then discussed together during Zoom sessions. Problem sets will be posted to Canvas Assignments, and referenced in the PowerPoint slides I will present on Zoom.      

Topics Discussed:

Day 1, July 27th: What is a cell? How do cells make up an embryo?
Learning Goals: To discuss relevant components of an animal cell; to describe the overall pattern in which cells and tissues move to begin forming an embryo’s body plan

Day 2, July 28th: Why do cells move and change shape? (cytoskeleton and cell movement)
Learning Goals: To discover the behavior of individual cells during movement, and to identify what causes these behaviors.

Day 3, July 29th: How can we see cells and development? (antibody staining, fluorescent proteins, and model organisms)
Learning Goals:To discover how scientists observe cell behavior and developmental events.

Day 4, July 30th: Cell movement shapes an embryo: Drosophila on stage I
Learning Goals: To visualize key cell movements and rearrangements that characterize early Drosophila embryonic development. To explore how cytoskeletal modulation results in cell shape changes that contribute to development of the fruit fly, Drosophila, embryo.

Day 5, July 31st: Cell adhesion and polarity during development: Drosophila on stage II
Learning Goals: To connect developmental events during Drosophila embryogenesis to the organization of adhesion and polarity among cells in the embryo. To recognize that changing cell shape can alter the contour of a developing tissue.

Day 6, August 3rd: How do cells communicate with one another? (cell-cell signaling)
Learning Goals: To explore why cells must communicate with one another, and to discover means by which cell signaling occurs.

Day 7, August 4th: Why are stem cells required for development?
Connection to previous days: Students have previously been introduced to the stages of embryonic development in sea urchin and Drosophila. Today, we will ask why stem cells and developmental potential are required during these developmental stages.

Day 8, August 5th: Why are adult tissues able to maintain stem cells? (adult stem cells and their niches)
Learning Goals: To discover why stem cells are maintained by a niche, and how stem cells function to maintain healthy adult tissue.

Day 9, August 6th: What are the applications of stem cell biology to medicine?
Learning Goals: To discover the applications of stem cell biology to medical research. To anticipate the potential, and limitations of stem cell applications.