Of (Cyber-) Tinman and Scarecrow: Understanding the Heart and the Brain
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, fish, 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” organisms 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 guided visits to state of the art research facilities on Rutgers campus, including the Rutgers Cell and DNA Repository (RUCDR), the largest national repository of human blood samples from patients with neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as confocal and electron microscope core imaging facilities at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. In addition, students will visit the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, PA where they will view exhibits designed to help the public understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and to appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease, including the challenges that the human body has to face in navigating the 21st century.