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Academic year 2024/2025

Course ID
Paola Costelli
Elena Tamagno
Degree course
Cellular and Molecular Biology
1st year
Teaching period
Semester 1
Course disciplinary sector (SSD)
MED/04 - experimental medicine and pathophysiology
Formal authority
Lessons optional and laboratories mandatory
Type of examination
- Regulation of gene expression and signal transduction
- Bases of cellular physiology
- Bases of metabolic biochemistry
- Fundaments in genetics
- Good knowledge of cellular biology, ciytology and histology
- Bases of anatomy, physiology and immunology
Propedeutic for
Immunopathology and Pathophysiology, Medical and Cancer Genetics

Sommario del corso


Course objectives

This teaching contributes to the learning objectives included into the Fundamental area of the Master in Cellular and Molecular Biology - Biologia Cellulare e Molecolare, providing knowledge and applicative abilities in the cellular and molecular field, in both physiological and pathological environment. In particular, students will aquire an integrated knowledge of biological systems, from molecules to the whole organisms, and the ability to apply such knowledge in specific fields such as biotechnology, biomedicine and neurosciences. The teaching will focus on the molecular bases of human diseases, including oncology. 



Results of learning outcomes

At the end of the teaching students will be able to establish connections between molecular alterations and the pathogenesis of disease processes at high integration levels (subcellular compartments, cells, tissues/organs and organism). The following specific competencies will be acquired:


- to describe the molecular alterations involved in the pathogenesis of the most frequent human diseases;

- to identify the role played by the inflammatory process in the onset and progression of human pathologies;

- to show the influence of both genetic and epigenetic background in the development of diseases;

- to understand the relevance of the environment in the occurrence of pathological states

- to recognize the reciprocal interplay of the different organ/tissue compartments in the disease progression;

- to critically read and discuss scientific papers dealing with the mechanisms underlying diseases;



At the end of the teaching the students will be able to:

- evaluate and provide interpretation of experimental data;

- integrate the knowledge obtained in the present teaching with that deriving from other teachings , with particular emphasis to the understading of pathogenetic mechanisms.


Students will develop the ability to:

- produce oral and/or written communications with an adequate technical language, in both italian and english;

- perform group working.




Molecular Pathology

Disease and syndrome. Extrinsic and intrinsic causes of disease and their interactions. Cellular responses to stress and toxic insults: adaptation, injury and death. Oxidative stress. Ischemia-reperfusion damage.

Physiological and pathological ageing. Progeroid syndromes. Tissue and cellular senescence.

DNA repair defects and their consequences. 

Genetic diseases. Causes and mechanisms of mutation. Chromosomes: structural and numerical alterations. Trinucleotide repeat pathologies (X-fragile). Genomic imprinting (Prader-Willy syndrome). Monogenic diseases. Lysosomal storage diseases

Endoplasmic reticulum stress. Protein misfolding. Intracellular protein accumulation as pathogenetic mechanism. Amyloidosis and neurodegenerative diseases.

Muscle diseases: dystrophies, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. 

Erythrocyte pathophysiology: molecular bases of haemoglobin and erythrocyte production and degradation. Mechanisms of anemia.

Histopathology on the web, paper discussion


The nature of cancer: monoclonality, heterogeneity. Epidemiology. Classification. Lifestyle and cancer.

Carcinogenesis as a multifactorial progressive process. Inflammation and cancer.

Cancer stem cells, oncogenes and oncosuppressor genes.


Invasion and metastasis, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT).

Tumor-host interaction: nutrition and cancer; the microbiome in oncology; immune response to tumors; obesity, metabolic syndrome and cancer; cancer cachexia. 

Outline of conventional and molecular therapeutic approaches to neoplastic diseases.

Paper discussion


Course delivery

The teaching is organized as follows: 44 hours  will be dedicated to class and seminars, 4 hour to practicing the discussion of scientific papers. Attendance to every type of class is optional, though recommended. Slides, video and mandatory scientific papers will be available on the Moodle platform. 

All lectures will be delivered in presence, subject to updates on the measures adopted by UniTo which can be found on the University portal under "Provisions for those who study and work at UniTo" (see


Learning assessment methods

Midterm Multidisciplinary Test (MMT, optional) - This test will be in common with the courses of  Advanced Cell Biology and Biotechnology, Cell Physiology, and Virology. It will be a Moodle-based test of 30 questions (8 for each course): 28 with a variety of formats (multiple choice, true/false, filling in checklists....) and four open questions. The optional midterm Multidisciplinary test will give rise to additional points to the final grade of final exam of each of the three courses, provided this will be passed in the first session (January-February 2024). Correspondence between Midterm Multidisciplinary Test vote and additional points for final exams is as follows: 22-23/32, 0.5 points; 24-25/32, 1 points; 26-27/32, 1.5 points; 28-30/32, 2 points. 

Multidisciplinary Research Essay (MRE, optional) - This at-home assignment will be in common with the courses of Advanced Cell Biology and Biotechnology, Cell Physiology and Virology, and will refer to methodologies and technical approaches relevant to the four teachings. The essay (up to 2000 characters + figures, tables and references) will be prepared by groups of normally three students and presented oraly by the end of the semester. The Multidisciplinary Research Essay will give rise to additional points to the final grade of final exam of each of the four courses, provided this will be passed in the first exam session (January-February 2024). Correspondence between vote to the Multidisciplinary Research Essay and additional points for final exams is as follows: 22-23, 0.5 points; 24-25, 1 points; 26-27, 1.5 points; 28-30, 2 points. 

Final exam - This exam will be a Moodle-based test of 6 questions (5 for students of the Neurobiological curriculum, that will complete their mark with prof. Tamagno's evaluation), to be performed in 120 minutes. Questions are mainly open, aimed at evaluating the specific knowledge, the acquisition of an appropriate technical language, the skill for both synthesis and speach organization. Exams will take place in presence, subject to updates on the measures adopted by UniTo which can be found on the University portal under "Provisions for those who study and work at UniTo" (see  Max punctuation is 30/30, every question having the same weight. Particularly relevant executions will be marked cum laude. Any additional point obtained by MMT and MRE will be added to the final exam of the first exam session (January-February 2024). 

Each answer will be verified for plagiarism, cut/paste, ect. In case of positive feedback, even on one single answer or part of it, the exam will be canceled. 

Academic conduct: The penalty for course-related dishonesty (ei. cheating on exams, plagiarism, etc) will be a failure for the entire course.




Support activities

Seminars held during the teaching period.

Suggested readings and bibliography


Slides and papers/videos available on the Moodle platform (


- Kumar, Abbas, Aster Robbins & Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease, 9th edition, Elsevier

- Weinberg RA. The biology of Cancer, 2nd ed, 2014 Garland Science

-Tannock IA, Hill R, Bristow R, Harrington L. The basic science of Oncology. 5th edition, 2013, Mc Graw-Hill Education

- DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology 8th edition

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