Of (Cyber-) Tinman and Scarecrow: Advances in Biomedical Research, Focusing on Diseases of the Heart and the Brain

Maria Konsolaki (Genetics) and
Sunita Kramer (Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Honors College)

The heart and the brain are the two most vital organs in the human body; but how much do we know about them? By studying the development of non-human organisms, such as fruit flies, worms, and mice, scientists have discovered that the genes controlling the pattern of the body are almost the same in all animals. For example, the genes that instruct fly embryos to form wings and human embryos to form arms and legs are nearly identical. Through lectures, class activities, discussions, and lab visits, we will focus on how the study of “model” systems, including stem cells, can transform our understanding of both the healthy human body and human diseases, particularly those that affect the heart and the brain.  Classes will include a guided visit to the Rutgers Cell and DNA Repository (RUCDR), the largest national repository of human blood samples from patients with neurological and neurodegenerative diseases.  In addition, students will visit the “Body Worlds: Pulse” exhibit at the Discovery Center in Times Square, NY.  This exhibit incorporates thoughts on the challenges that the human body has to face in navigating the 21st century.