Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


At least one of the following courses:

7.03 Genetics
7.05 General Biochemistry
7.06 Cell Biology
7.28 Molecular Biology

Course Description

Regenerative medicine involves the repair and regeneration of tissues for therapeutic purposes, such as replacing bone marrow in leukemia, cartilage in osteoarthritis or cells of the heart after a heart attack. Tissue regeneration has been of interest throughout history. There is even a Greek myth that describes liver regeneration: Prometheus was chained to a mountain, and his liver was eaten daily by an eagle, regenerated and then eaten again the next day. Today advances in basic and clinical research make tissue regeneration feasible. Tissue is normally generated during fetal development by the differentiation of embryonic stem cells or during postnatal life by a similar differentiation of adult stem cells. Regenerative medicine tries to mimic these processes.

In this course, we will explore basic mechanisms of how cells differentiate into specific tissues in response to a variety of biologic signaling molecules. We will discuss the use of such factors for in vitro tissue production. For example, bone morphogenetic proteins can be used in vitro to drive the differentiation of adult stem cells towards bone and heart. We will also study the cellular mechanisms involved in the cloning of animals and how Scottish researchers produced the sheep Dolly using the nucleus of a mammary gland cell from an adult sheep. We will read papers describing organ production, such as the in vitro formation of beating heart cells. We will also consider the molecular bases of cellular and functional changes of different organs that occur in disease and treatments that cause tissue remodeling to correct these changes. We will discuss how studies of the developmental, cellular and molecular biology of regeneration have led to the discovery of new drugs. We will visit the Massachusetts General Hospital to see the patients with regenerated tissues and the Genzyme drug production facility to see how drugs are produced for human use.

Course Format

The main aim of this course is to teach the students how to critically read and discuss scientific papers. Students will read two papers from the primarily research literature before coming to each class. This reading is essential, since the class will be based on discussion of these materials. Figures and tables will be projected using PowerPoint, and the entire class will participate in discussions of this material. Experimental design, control experiments, materials and methods, data and appropriateness of interpretations will be discussed. At the end of each class, the instructor will give a short introduction to the papers for the following week. The course will be graded as "fail" or "pass". A passing grade will be given to students who attend the course, participate in discussions, and complete the assignments.


The course is graded pass/fail. A passing grade will be awarded to students who have satisfactory attendance, read the papers thoroughly, submit questions concerning the papers to the instructors the day before each session, come to class prepared to discuss every figure, and have completed class assignments appropriately.


1 Introduction
2 An Introduction to Stem Cells
3 Molecular and Cellular Bases of Organ Development
4 Cloning of Somatic Cells by Nuclear Transfer
5 Therapeutic Uses of Stem Cells
6 Studies of Patients Treated with Stem Cells
7 Visit to the Massachusetts General Hospital
8 Molecular Bases of Disease
9 In vivo Regeneration of Tissues by Cell Transplantation
10 IPS Cells as Experimental Models of Neurological Disorders
11 Bioartificial Organs
12 Tissue Regeneration Driven by Growth Hormones
13 Field Trip to Genzyme
14 Student Paper Presentations and Discussions