PSL1040H - Systems Biology in Physiology

Course Coordinator:

U. Kuzmanov


Systems biology is a recent area of science that links general medical scientific research approaches with ‘large scale’ analyses. The overall goal of systems biology science is to connect complex biological networks with biochemical and physiological outcomes. Systems biology platforms include many of the 'omic' disciplines such as: genomics, epigenetics, transcriptomics, network signaling, metabolomics, interactomics, lipidomics and proteomics.

Links between cellular physiology and systems biology have profound significance to our understanding of general physiology. This course will teach students of these recent developments, and importantly, enable them to extract and utilize information at the systems biology level.

The course will begin with a set of general lecture overviews of the approaches available, basic theory, and application. The remaining lectures will be student-driven, seminar-based discussions with Faculty members as facilitators of this discussion. We will cover the major systems biology literature and technical approaches. The general course detail will be relatively narrow given the topics covered, however the written essay will provide the student sufficient opportunity to explore one area in greater detail.

The course will consist of 12 sessions, 2 hours each, as outlined below:
Week 1. Course Organization, marking scheme and time-table
Week 2. Introductory lectures by instructors
Week 3. Overview lecture by instructors
Weeks 4-12. Research paper presentation and discussion by students

Course Format:

Two trainee presentations (30 min each) per 2 h class based on papers in the selected areas, to be followed by general discussion. Original papers, reviews and/or pertinent book chapters will be used as the basis for trainee presentations and discussion, and will be selected by the faculty facilitators with input from the trainees. Active participation in discussions will be a requirement. For each presentation, two trainee discussants in addition to the presenter will be assigned to review the paper and asked to come to class with prepared questions. Papers and presentations will span basic science to integrative physiology and medicine. Trainees do not need to have a strong background in all the topics covered as one of the major goals of the course is to broaden the interdisciplinary background of the participants.


Presentations (15% and 20%) - Each student will present TWICE, once presenting with a partner a method in systems biology (15% of final grade) and once individually presenting a research paper using a systems biology approach (20% of final grade). 

Data exploration assignments (20%) - Students will complete four short take-home assignments related to open access software used to assess some systems biology data sets. Each of the four assignments is due after 7 days and is worth 5% of the final grade. 

Final paper (35%) - Students will select a topic related to physiology or a disease/pathology and write an 8 (minimum) to 10 (maximum) page perspective on applying a system biology approach to that topic area. 

Class participation (10%) - Students will be expected to be involved in classroom discussions and graded according to involvement in the overall course questioning and general discussions.