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Department of biochemistry and Molecular biology

Graduate Courses

Advanced Biochemistry Spring Selective (BMB/PCOL-735) – Co-Directors: Christopher Davies, PhD (Biochemistry), and Lauren Ball, PhD (Pharmacology). Credit hours: 3.  

This course has been developed to equip students with foundational knowledge that is considered essential for a successful career in the field of biochemistry. It includes training in core areas such as enzyme kinetics, thermodynamics, biomolecular interactions, structural biology and biophysics, alongside in-depth examination of publications where such approaches have made a critical impact.

Lipids in Pathobiology (BMB-748/MCBP-748) - Co-Directors: Samar Hammad, PhD, and Ashley Cowart, PhD. Credit hours: 3. Offered Spring 2016.

This multidisciplinary course addresses biochemical, applied, and translational approaches to the study of lipids. The course is composed of three main sections: lipid biosynthesis, lipid signaling, and lipids and disease. The first section is a comprehensive treatment of nomenclature and synthesis of major lipid classes including glycerophospholipids, sphingolipids, and sterols, as well as methodology for lipid study. The second section addresses roles of bioactive members of these lipid classes in regulation of cell signaling and downstream events. The third section is largely translational, with many lectures on human diseases that involve the lipids and signaling pathways discussed. This course contains a brief hands-on laboratory segment. This course is open this to graduate students, residents, postdocs, and third and fourth medical students.  Offered every other Spring.  

RNA Biology and Disease (BMB-737) - Co-Directors:  Tilman Heise, PhD, and Gunhild Sommer, PhD. Credit hours: 3.  Not offered Spring 2016.
Alterations in the posttranscriptional control of gene expression can be linked with human diseases such as cancer and viral infection. This course examines mechanisms of post-transcriptional control, including alternative splicing, changes in mRNA stability or localization, protein synthesis, and expression of micro RNAs, in order to understand how aberrant regulation of gene expression provokes cellular malfunction and potentiates human disease.  

Molecular Foundations of Medicine (BMB-605) - Credit hours: 3.
The course grade is based on class participation (25%) and outside assignments (75%). Outside assignments include written review of scientific manuscripts (40%) and presentation of a scientific paper in class (35%). Merit-based. No minimum number of students; Open to M.S. and Ph.D. students. 

Each year one section is offered. Please see below for topics taught in previous years.

BMB-605A. Mechanism of Aging and Life Span
Many pathological processes have become amenable to study using the various tools and approaches of biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, chemistry, and bioinformatics. This is perhaps best illustrated in the study of aging. After decades of little progress, it is now apparent that fundamental processes regulate lifespan of organisms ranging from yeast to Caenorhabditis elegans, to Drosophila, to mice, and, by extension, to humans. These common mechanisms involve transcription factors, insulin-like signaling, lipid signaling pathways, and telomerase. Disorders in these pathways result in disturbances in lifespan, and in some cases in human diseases. This course will provide the students with the necessary foundation in understanding the various models employed for the study of aging and lifespan. The course will rely primarily on original literature and in-depth discussion of key foundation papers. The discussion will be led by expert faculty who will introduce each topic and provide the students with the necessary foundations.

BMB-605B. Mechanisms of Cancer Pathogenesis
The abnormal behavior of neoplastic cells can often be traced to alterations in posttranscriptional control of gene expression. Alternative splicing, changes in mRNA stability, the translational control, and expression of micro RNA having a significant impact on the development of human disease and viral infection. This course will provide the study of basic molecular mechanism and of cellular malfunction provoked by alteration of RNA synthesis and processing.

BMB-605C. Mechanisms of Inflammation
One of the emerging areas of research is the understanding of the mechanism involved in the inflammation process. In particular, bioactive molecules produced by immune system cells are involved in inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, sepsis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and atherosclerosis. This course will provide a study of mechanisms leading to and maintaining the inflammation process, such as dyslipidemia, the leading cause of the inflammation process that leads to the atherothrombotic disease, and the oxidative stress, the pathological factor responsible for this damage. In addition, the course will focus on a variety of stimuli, such as mechanical, anoxic, chemical (e.g. oxidized LDL), immunological or infectious ones, that are responsible for activation of the endothelium. Finally, the course will also examine how many infectious agents regulate the inflammation process, leading either to the control of the infection or the development of infectious disease, depending on the cross talk between the host and the pathogen.

BMB-605D. Pathophysiology of Obesity, Diabetes, and the Metabolic Syndrome
Obesity and its pathological sequelae remain a primary health concern. While obesity is associated with diseases including type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and heart disease, mechanisms by which these occur remain unknown. Recent literature implicates altered lipid metabolism in these conditions, including compromised fatty acid oxidation, changes in lipid ‘packaging’ in lipoproteins, and aberrant production of signaling lipids such as diacylglycerols and sphingosine-1-phosphate. Cellular processes linking these biochemical changes to disease include induction of ER stress, apoptosis, autophagy, and induction of oxidative stress responses. This course will provide an overview of clinical, cellular, and molecular/biochemical features of the most common diseases associated with obesity and discuss recent literature providing mechanistic insights into the etiology of these pathophysiological processes.  Course Director: Ashley Cowart, PhD.

BMB-605E. Autophagy and Human Disease
Autophagy is a cellular process in which the cell self-digests its own components to recycle nutrients and to eliminate unnecessary or damaged proteins and organelles. Recent studies have demonstrated the fundamental importance of autophagy in health and disease. Participants will be introduced to the historical overview of the field, the current knowledge on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of autophagy, and how autophagy plays a role in various aspects of human pathophysiology. The discussion topics include autophagy in stress response, infectious diseases, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Research (Variable s.h.) (BMB-970)
Thesis (Variable s.h.) (BMB-980)
Dissertation (Variable s.h.) (BMB-990)

Seminars Journal Clubs

All students are expected to participate in the Biochemistry Research and Methods Seminar series and journal clubs, and to attend special departmental or university seminars featuring distinguished scientists from both foreign and domestic institutions.

Students of the Department of Biochemistry will actively participate in selecting and inviting to MUSC one/two speakers per year. The students will host and organize the visit of the speaker to MUSC.

Research and Methods Seminar Series (BMB-730) – Director: Vamsi Gangaraju, PhD. Credit hours: 1.

The Biochemistry Research and Methods Seminar Series is presented on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. In this series, students give a seminar based on their own research to their fellow students, graduate training committee, thesis committee, faculty and post-doctoral fellows in the Department of Biochemistry. This is a great opportunity for the students to present their work in an informal setting and to receive feedback on his/her studies from a large audience with different scientific backgrounds. PhD students are required to present at least once per year.  MS students are required to present at least twice during the course of their studies. For information about the Research and Methods Seminar Series, please contact Belinda Andersen at 843-792-2476,

Biochemistry Journal Club (BMB-607) - Director: Shaun Olsen, PhD. Credit hours: 1.
Current and emerging topics in the biomedical sciences will be presented and discussed in a journal club format. One student per week will lead a group discussion of a faculty-approved article from a high impact journal. All students are expected to read the selected paper in advance of the class and to actively participate in the discussion. Students are expected to attend each class and to present at least one journal article per semester.  All students are expected to actively participate in the discussion.  Grading (P/NP) for presentation and participation will be based on the rubric outlined in the syllabus.  Students who do not participate in the discussion will be given notice that they need to increase their interaction with the group.

RNA Club: RNA and Disease – Director: Tilman Heise, PhD

In this forum, faculty, postdocs and students meet once a month to share data, discuss projects, review publications and establish collaborations. Topics cover different aspects of RNA biology and posttranscriptional control of gene expression, with special emphasis of the role of these processes in the development of human disease.

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