Course ObjectiveAt the end of the course the student is able to:
• Identify (in a case situation) relevant facts and principles at the
anatomical, endocrinal and molecular biological level with respect to
oogenesis and spermatogenesis, fertilization, embryonal and fetal
development, and birth. In addition this applies to genetic and
environmental factors that influence these processes and could lead to
numerous birth defects;
• Identify and understand the coherence between these different
processes, and give a detailed explanation/indicate the function of
molecular and cellular principles in human development; how malfunction
at e.g. the cellular level has its consequences on the formation and
function of (parts) of organs as well as the functioning at the systems
• Recognize and describe the different developmental stages of zebrafish
development and how perturbation in development by alcohol can be
measured and are visible, and describe the advantages and disadvantages
of different model systems;
• Recognize, reflect and evaluate on the use of gene expression analysis
tools (e.g. PCR) to measure developmental processes and disturbance by
genetic and environmental factors;
• Evaluate, reflect and form an advice for case studies (mutations,
interference, disease examples, abnormal phenotypes) related to prenatal
& postnatal development, and consequences of exposure to toxic compounds
based on the molecular and cellular principles in developmental biology;
• Identify (in a case situation) relevant facts and principles of
developmental psychology and its methodology, as well as to reflect and
evaluate on how malfunction at the cellular and systems level has its
consequences on postnatal behavior (motor, cognitive and social
Techniques and skills:
• Microscopy & drawing/recognizing of anatomical structures (e.g.
zebrafish developmental stages, the urogenital system).
• Analysis of gene expression data; performing simple statistical
• Oral presentation of two different practicals. Combining and
integrating these data and present them in the context of normal and
teratogen-disturbed development using literature to be searched on
Course ContentThis course comes in 3 main modules in which medical issues related to
normal development and disturbances thereof are covered from a
morphological and molecular point of view.
• Reproduction, embryology, anatomy and function of the (fe)male
reproductive systems, general embryology & fertility.
• Formation (first trimester) and function (up to term) of main
peripheral organ systems (e.g. heart, lungs) dealing with main molecular
• Development of the central and peripheral nervous systems, general
growth (2nd & 3rd trimester), birth and related issues, developmental
psychology (methodology, motor-, cognitive- and social development).
Week 1: “The reproductive system (organs, tissues and hormones) and its
role in the fertilization process.” – The gross anatomy of the
reproductive systems and the processes of gametogenesis, fertilization
and conception are covered.
During a meeting you’ll find your practicum partner of this course.
Week 2: “The first 3 weeks of development.” – The biological concepts
and underlying molecular events of these stages are explained. In
addition, malformations and birth defects caused by toxic compounds
(teratogens) are covered.
The practicum zebrafish development let you get hands-on experience with
the key items of week 1, and those of teratogen effects.
Week 3: “(Non)surviving errors in development.” – The concept of birth
defects (genetical & environmental) is further explained, in addition to
current screening tools of these aforementioned defects.
In the zebrafish meeting you’ll deepen your knowledge on the use of this
model system in toxicology and teratogenic research.
With a final quiz we’ll prepare for the first exam (week 4).
Week 4–5: “From building sketch to bay.”– Development of our child
continues and specific organs are developed. There will be specific
attention to the origins and development of (the (anatomy of) the
skeleton, the heart, the lungs, all cavities, as well as the urogenital
system. In addition, we will cover (genetic) deviations in the
development of sex and gender.
In the gene expression practical you will test whether the hypothesized
molecular cascade that leads to proper development is indeed perturbed
by alcohol. Several meetings are intended to deepen your knowledge on
gene expression analysis, how to measure this and how to analyze your
results to finally present this to your fellow students. In the anatomy
practical both the anatomical details of the urogenital systems is
deepened as well as their developmental origin.
A final quiz we’ll prepare for the second exam (week 6).
Week 6: “Brain development.” – We will cover the development of the
different ‘brains’, namely the central and the peripheral one, each with
their own type of cells and tissues and functions. A specific focus is
the sensitivity of the central brain to hormones and morphogens, and how
early exposure could have long-lasting effects, ultimately on our
well-being and behavior.
Week 7–8: “The child is ready but not finished.” – First we will cover
the process of labor and where things can go wrong with the child and/or
the mother during this critical moment. Furthermore, although all major
systems are formed before term, the child needs substantial post-natal
development. With this we enter the domain of child psychology, looking
at the methodology of this type of research, as well as the major
researchers in this field with respect to motor- cognitive and social
In a meeting you’ll prepare a summary of the entire development you have
witnessed in this course.
A quiz will prepare you for the third exam (week 8).
Teaching Methods• General classes ~56 h.
• Compulsory work groups 12 h.
• Practicals: see below
• Mandatory assignments: Well-formulated hypotheses and answers to the
questions (see assignments on Canvas) need to be uploaded before the
assigned deadline. Answers to the questions are discussed in the
work groups. Participation is graded.
• Oral presentation: The presentation (guidelines see syllabus ánd see
rubrics) will deepen the acquired knowledge on morphology and gene
cascades perturbed by teratogen exposure.
- Zebrafish embryological development (10-12h): Embryological folding
development of germ layers can be observed in addition to the
malformations by alcohol exposure.
- Zebrafish gene expression (3-5h): Using semi-quantitative PCR we’ll
the moleculair processes during normal development and what can be
learned from these cascades ased on teratogen exposure. Results are
analyzed and simple statistical tests will be used to interpret these
- Anatomy practicum: The obduction of the urogenital system is shown.
Assignments (syllabus) need to be made beforehand as questions are only
covered during the practical. .
• Self-study possibility: ~ 70 h.
• Note: The topics and skills discussed in the practicals are part of
Method of Assessment- Sub-exams (3x; week 4, 6 and 8 of the course); average exam grade=75%
of the course grade
Exam type (multiple choice (4-options), ~50-60 per sub-exam)
- Oral presentation & assignments of work meetings; grade=25% of the
- Your presence during all practical and work meetings is mandatory, as
well as handing in all completed assignments in time, to be allowed at
the oral presentation, and hence to have an official grade. The only
resit for these items is doing the course again next year.
Each sub-exam is 25% of the final grade; the oral presentation is 25% of
the final grade. All parts (average of 3 sub-exams, oral presentation)
need to be ≥ 5.5.
When absent during a sub-exam you’ll need to do the resit, which covers
all the topics of the whole course (there is no resit for sub-exams!).
The good news is that your presentation grade (if ≥5.5) will remain
valid for 2 academic years. V.v., when the average of the 3 sub-exams
5.5, but you did not pass the oral presentation (<5.5, or absent), the
exam grade remains valid for 2 academic years. Note that the only resit
for the presentation is by dong it next year. Therefore, make sure you
attend all compulsory meetings, AND hand in all assignments in time.
Entry RequirementsAn optimistic, studious and motivated attitude will help better through
life and specifically through this course. Let’s make these 2 months the
highlight of the year :)
Literature• Human Development syllabus for sale at start of the course; week 1
only! Note, this is mandatory to follow this course.
• Martini: Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology, Benjamin Cummings,
11th edition (or higher when available). This is a book you need for
preceding courses as well.
• Larsen’s Human Embryology (Schoenwolf et al), 5th edition (or higher
when available). This book gives a great detail on embryology and is
perfect background reading when you do not attend classes, or want to
know more about the topic. Very highly recommended though
Target AudienceCompulsory course for first year Biomedical Sciences’ students.
Additional Information• Please communicate in case of absence or other items to the tutors ánd
the coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) by using your VU-mail only
• You need to have, bring and wear your lab coat at the practicals.
• Read, read, read…. That brings you further in this course, as you then
know what assignments need to be handed in when, and what the
assignments and the practicals are about before you get started.
• Reading applies to the Canvas site, the syllabus (mandatory), and of
course this text (if you reached this sentence you will very likely pass
this course anyway)
• What do I need to learn? The ppts, the syllabus and the book (in that
• Although we are really fun people, there is no February holiday at the
University and we just continue despite ‘Carnaval’.
• All announcements, updates of meetings/classes are via Canvas en hence
your VU-mail. By instantaneous changes this will leave your personal
|Language of Tuition||English|
|Faculty||Faculty of Science|
|Course Coordinator||prof. dr. S. Spijker|
|Examiner||prof. dr. S. Spijker|
dr. C.P.J. de Kock
drs. M.W. van Emden
S.M. te Welscher MSc
dr. T.C. Messemaker
dr. J.B. Legradi
prof. dr. S. Spijker
R.K. Blankevoort MSc
You need to register for this course yourself
Last-minute registration is available for this course.
|Teaching Methods||Study Group*, Lecture, Practical*, Computer lab*, Seminar*|
*You cannot select a group yourself for this teaching method, you will be placed in a group.
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