Odyssey, Spring 2009 - Genetics 101:Understanding the Headlines

Class Meetings: six Tuesday evenings, 6:30-8:00 pm in NOA 1.126, UT Austin campus,
February 17- March 31 (no class on March 17)

Instructor: Dr. Ruth Buskirk, School of Biological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin
Contact Information: rbuskirk@mail.utexas.edu, office 512-471-7793, Painter 4.30.

Web page (especially for links): http://www.bio.utexas.edu/faculty/buskirk/odyssey/

Links to helpful genetics sites

Brief description: DNA evidence from crime scenes. Genetically modified foods. Biotechnology. Advances in science and technology make headlines and inspire TV shows, but many of us don't fully appreciate how they impact our health and society. This course introduces concepts and applications of molecular biology with the goal of helping people understand the real science behind the media headlines and popular entertainment. We will address such questions as: How is genetic information stored in DNA? How are genes turned on and off? How are cancer cells different from other cells? What is recombinant DNA? What is gene therapy? This course will include both lectures and discussion/work groups.


February 17: What’s DNA? How does the genetic code work? Examples of human diseases due to single-gene mutations (sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosiis).

February 24: How is DNA copied, in cells and in the laboratory? Polymerase Chain Reaction and uses. Mutations and evolution. Viral and bacterial genes. HIV evolution.

March 3: What is in the human genome? How do we vary individually? DNA fingerprinting. Gene testing. Mitochondrial DNA.

March 10: Recombinant DNA and biotechnology. Genetically-modified organisms. GM foods. Research using model organisms.

March 24: Genes and development. Cell signaling. Stem cells. Epigenetics.

March 31: Genetics and medicine. Cancer. Designer drugs. Gene therapy (successes and failures). Autoimmune Issue