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EGMT 1520: Monsters, Mutants, and Master Genes - What Can Frogs Teach Us About Humans?


Who are we? How do we develop from an egg into a walking, talking, thinking human? What happens when development goes wrong? Or why does it go wrong? These are some questions that have intrigued many of us. Studying Biology tells us that, Every animal form starts from a single egg and follows a developmental program coded by its DNA. Our DNA governs the similarities and differences we share with other living beings. It defines the way our cells divide and differentiate and transform into our beautiful, healthy bodies. And, if some part of this program fails, it may result in disease.

To understand and study human health and disease, scientists use other organisms. We are connected to these other organisms as we share a common ancestor and, thus, some parts of our DNA. In this course, you will develop an understanding of how scientists have utilized model organisms to answer some of the questions listed above. We will use frogs as an example model organism, mainly for a few reasons. First, their body plan is very similar to ours; second, they are easy to work with, and third, they develop outside the mother's body, making it easy to watch development in action. We will, as a team, look at some case studies, evaluate experiments, and do some hands-on activities to learn how the use of empirical methods has transformed scientific inquiry. We will also discuss the human values involved in using animals in medical research and the ethical implications. You will also have the opportunity to connect to a scientist who uses frogs to study human health and visit their lab. My goal for you is to be able to evaluate and analyze a news piece about human health and judge for yourself the validity and implications of the data presented in the article.