Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


7.03 Genetics
7.05 General Biochemistry
7.06 Cell Biology
7.28 Molecular Biology


During development, the genetic content of each cell remains, with a few exceptions, identical to that of the zygote. Most differentiated cells therefore retain all of the genetic information necessary to generate an entire organism. It was through pioneering technology of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) that this concept was experimentally proven. Only 10 years ago the sheep Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult organism, demonstrating that the differentiated state of a mammalian cell can be fully reversible to a pluripotent embryonic state. A key conclusion from these experiments was that the difference between pluripotent cells such as embryonic stem (ES) cells and unipotent differentiated cells is solely a consequence of reversible changes. These changes, which have proved to involve reversible alterations to both DNA and to proteins that bind DNA, are known as epigenetic, to distinguish them from genetic alterations to DNA sequence. In this course we will explore such epigenetic changes and study different approaches that can return a differentiated cell to an embryonic state in a process referred to as epigenetic reprogramming, which will ultimately allow generation of patient-specific stem cells and application to regenerative therapy.

This course will consist of 12 classes focusing on critical reading of original scientific literature. Two papers will be read in detail before each class and the papers discussed in class. Attendance and participation in all classes is required.


Grading is Pass/Fail and will depend on attendance, participation and completion of class assignments.


1 Introduction
2 Nuclear transfer, part 1
3 Nuclear transfer, part 2
4 Embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells
5 Epigenetics - DNA methylation
6 Epigenetics - Histone modifications
7 Epigenetics - Reading the epigenome
8 Field trip and written assignment
9 Oral presentations
10 Reprogramming by defined factors, part 1
11 Reprogramming by defined factors, part 2
12 Ethics discussion