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Academic year 2017/2018

Course ID
Teaching staff
Prof. Luca Munaron
Prof. Alessandra Fiorio Pla
Degree course
Cellular and Molecular Biology
2nd year
Course disciplinary sector (SSD)
BIO/09 - fisiologia
Formal authority
Lessons optional and laboratories mandatory
Type of examination
Written and oral
Basic knowledge of General and Cellular Physiology

Sommario del corso


Course objectives

The course is organized in 6 ECFT and aims to provide theoretical, technical and methodological background to critically investigate biophysical functions of the cells.

The course aims to foster the training of students in the application of the physical sciences and engineering to fundamental biological questions at the molecular, cellular, and systems levels. Additional objective points to a quantitative analysis of some conceptual and technical approaches to signal transduction mechanisms from a molecular and postgenomic pint of view, with particular emphasis on selected themes.


Results of learning outcomes

  • use multiple experimental tools and results to solve a biological problem in cell physiology
  • Extending and applying knowledge of biophysics to new contexts
  • Re-analysing information
  • Selecting robust information from a variety of sources
  • Making reasoned predictions and generalisations from experimental evidence and theoretical information
  • Drawing valid conclusions and giving explanations supported by evidence/justification
  • Drawing on knowledge and understanding of biophysics to make accurate statements, describe complex information, provide detailed explanations and integrate knowledge
  • Critically evaluating scientific publications and media reports
  • Discuss the strenght and limitations of the results published on research papers, eventually identifying sources of errors and biases
  • Communicating biophysical findings and concepts fully, appropriately and using a variety of different modalities 

Course delivery

Lectures and tutorials

Students will be assigned specific readings on selected topics and will present and discussed together. 

  • Lectures : Attention is given to focused scientific questions, starting from the knowledge provided by the scientific literature.  Experimental approaches, results and conclusions are deeply analysed. 
  • Research assays: discussion sessions in which students will be divided into working groups focusing on the different topics of the course. 

Learning assessment methods

Examinations will be based on material covered in lectures, assigned readings, seminars and on site activities.

Research Assay: This at-home assignment will refer to specific topics of the course. The essay (up to 2000 characters + figures, tables and references) will be prepared by groups of normally three students and presented orally by the end of the semester. The Research Essay will give rise to additional points to the final grade of final exam. Correspondence between vote to the 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 (duration 1,5h) of questions in different formats : 6 open question, 20 multiple choice qizzes that can very between multiple choice quizzes, true/false, short answers, open-ended questions; interpretation of experimental data and resolution of exercises . The maximum grade will be 30/30. Any additional points obtained by research assay will be added to the final exam of the first exam session. Grading 31-33 will give rise to “ 30 cum laude”.



The main objective of the course is to convey to the students the ability to

  1. critically analyze scientific papers on piophysical topics;
  2. design integrative experimental protocols to address functional questions, taking into account the strengths and limitations of the different approaches.


  • Review on Topics already presented on Cell Physiology.Cell membrane permeability: fluxes across the plasma membrane. Transporters classification. Fluxes and lows for neutral species and electrolytes. Fick. Nernst-Plank. Goldman-Hodgkin-Katz
  • Cell membranes: structure and functions. Lipid rafts, caveolae, signalplexes
  • Electric Excitability of the cells. Action Potential. Patch clamp technique
  • Ion channels: Structure and function
  • Fluorescence and Fluorochromes. Fluorescent probes for ion fluxes studies
  • Intracellular messengers: Ca2+ and cAMP and their crosstalk in live cells.
  • Mitochondria as Ca2+ homeostasis regulators
  • Cell volume regulation and Aquaporin
  • Mechanosensitive channels. Two examples: Piezo and TRP
  • Genetic approaches to control living cells: OPTOGENETIC, CHEMOGENETIC and MAGNETOGENETIC

Suggested readings and bibliography


Lectures, selected papers and websites are available on Moodle.

For some topics selected textbooks available at DBIOS library.

Last update: 30/06/2017 17:17
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