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Biology of Reproduction and Embryonic Stem Cells
December 8 - 12
João Ramalho
Coordinator: João Ramalho-Santos (jramalho@ci.uc.pt)

This Course will touch a few areas related to Reproductive Biology, with overviews of Gametogenesis, Fertilization, Early Development and the use Embryonic Stem Cells. These topics will be followed by discussions related to novel topics that are becoming increasingly important, not only in Reproductive Biology in particular, but more generally in Endocrinology and Genetics, and that may have implications for human health. These topics concern endocrine disruption, imprinting in the germline, and germline preservation and modification. Disregarded a few years ago, the first molecular approaches to these problems are beginning to be carried out, related to transcriptomic analysis of the germline and imprinting in gametes as affected by pollutants acting as endocrine disruptors. Another important development relates to advances in preserving the germline in patients affected by a variety of pathologies, most importantly of oncological nature. Embryonic stem cells will also be discussed at length, with emphasis on different possible uses, different animal models and the new developments related to induced pluripotency (or iPS) and other aspects of Regeneration. Ethical implications related to these issues will be permanently in the background, but the forefront will be the scientific cutting edge. To minimize overlap with other courses adult stem cells and concrete applications to therapy will be avoided.
Another idea, implemented last year, is to bring in Lecturers in Portugal working in the Field, and that may have additional insights into possible collaborations that may interest the students. However, last year there were too many such visits, and the result was counter-productive. Regardless a few guest lecturers will come in one morning/afternoon for very specific Topics, not covered by the main lecturers. The first 3-4 days include Lectures and informal discussions, the final 1-2 days feature discussions steered by students. Those will be based on articles covering topics not fully explored in the lectures. Final program and topics will depend on availability of guests.
Day 1:
Gametogenesis, Fertilization and early development
Sex determination
Primordial germ cells and the colonization of the mammalian embryo.
Organization and function of germ cells and the regulation of Meiosis.
Architectural changes during spermiogenesis
Gamete heterogeneity
Interaction between mammalian gametes: Homing, recognition, fusion, blocks to polyspermy and activation of development
Inheritance during fertilization: What comes from where?
Role of sperm RNA in sperm quality and epigenetic transmission of information
Day 2:
Endocrine Disruption and preservation of the germline
Endocrine disruption. Reality or Fear mongering?
Pollution in many guises: From temperature to chemicals.
Germeline effects: imprinting defects, gamete aneuploidy, abnormal gonadal development and skewed sex ratios.
Preservation of the germline. Preserving gametes and gonadal tissue prior to chemotherapy
In vitro maturation of gametes, autografting and xenografting
Day 3- Pluripotent embryonic stem cells
The cell biology of embryonic stem cells. How many types, from how many species?
What are embryonic stem cells good for?
Differentiation and Tissue engineering
The revolution of iPS?
Regeneration: is it time to revisit classical models?

Day 4 and 5: Student-led Discussions

CNC Seminar:
Gerald Schatten
Confirmed Invited Speakers

Stefan Schlatt (University of Muenster, Germany)
Honaramooz A, Snedaker A, Boiani M, Schöler H, Dobrinski I, Schlatt S. Sperm from neonatal mammalian testes grafted in mice. Nature. 2002 Aug 15;418(6899):778

Gerald Schatten (University of Pittsburgh, USA)

St John JC, Amaral A, Bowles E, Oliveira JF, Lloyd R, Freitas M, Gray HL, Navara CS, Oliveira G, Schatten GP, Spikings E, Ramalho-Santos J. The analysis of mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA in human embryonic stem cells. Methods Mol Biol. 2006;331:347-74.

Organization and Goals
The Course will be organized in standard fashion. There will be lectures (open to the general public), which we hope can have an informal format, and Journal Club-like Discussions with pre-assigned papers. Those are open to graduate students, not only BEB students, but others who wish to attend/be evaluated (please contact the course coordinator).
Students will have access to papers and are expected to have minimal insights into all of them beforehand (the key words here are “minimal” and “all”…). Responding to student criticisms the papers will be made available well before the course. Students will NOT present any given papers formally (i.e., PowerPoint presentations), or in detail. Especially in the first courses Powerpoint presentations tend to slow things down, force students to focus on only one paper, students spend way too much time preparing them, they tend to serve as props/memory aids, and, above all, the students will do plenty of them throughout the Program.
However, students will be assigned one paper, which will represent the pivotal work of her/his Post Doc or PhD (just concluded), i.e., the students will assume that this is “their” work, which they have just published. Each student will first explain to colleagues what the work is about and what it means, then orally discuss what she/he would do next in terms of career development. In other words: which experiments would be important to do next and which directions the project would take (or should not take). In short, what an outline of their first independent research proposal/grant/job talk pitch might look like. And what strengths she/he has to be hired for an independent position. Should the person be hired? If so, in what kind of position? In what kind of Institute? What other skills would be needed to advance the Project? The topics selected for the papers will be related to subjects not discussed in depth in the formal lectures. Each student will also have to hand in a short (repeat: “short”) one-page summary/Abstract of his or her project proposal.
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