Molecular and Developmental Immunology

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2019
Saturday 14 December 2019
23 May 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The subject of immunology touches upon almost all areas of biomedical sciences, including wellbeing, nutrition, cancer and metastasis, autoimmunity, reproduction and fertility, and senescence. Recent advances in genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, computational chemistry, bioinformatics and structural biology have served as the basis for new approaches for understanding immunological processes.

Next-generation sequencing and high-throughput immune profiling technologies have revolutionized the characterization of human immune responses. We can now determine what defines a healthy immune system and how infection, vaccination or disease disturbs immunity. However, there is much knowledge to be gained with many aspects of immunology still poorly understood. Autoimmunity is still a challenge to understand and treat.

Immunology has not cured cancer or AIDS. AIDS remains, an intractable condition; no effective vaccine is yet available and treatment is mainly achieved by reducing viral replication by taking anti-retroviral drugs. Other viruses that pose a major challenge are Zika and Ebola; no approved vaccines are yet available for these pathogens

The BS326 module will place emphasis on the technologies currently used for the study of the immune system. Most knowledge gains in immunology have been derived from in vitro assays, in most cases using cell-lines obtained from non-human mammals such as mice, rats and monkeys. There is a need for understanding in vivo immune responses in humans. This is not readily achieved, since refined techniques are required and deontological ethics may slow down progress. Recent techniques, having great potential in immunology, include chimaeric antigen receptors T cells, CAR-T cells, designed for the treatment of cancer and gene editing.

The essence of the BS326 module is to understand how the immune system recognizes pathogens and infection. This is what immunologists call immunorecognition. This has puzzled immunologists for decades. How does the immune system 'know' when to initiate a response and how can it 'see' an antigen? How are these responses regulated and how can interventions be delivered to regulate them to alleviate disease.

Cell surface receptors such as major histocompatibility complex antigens and T-cell receptors will be discussed in detail. Antibody diversity will be examined from the point of view of genetics and antibody repertoire. Ligand-receptor interaction and cytokines (the hormones of the immune system) will also be studied. Most specific immune responses involve lymphocyte proliferation, induced via Ca+2 release, PKC, IP3 and cell adhesion receptors that work as co-stimulatory molecules. Cell mediated immunity, via macrophage activation, T-helper and T-cytotoxic cells will also be examined. HLA genes and products will be discussed in relation to antigen presentation, organ transplantation (e.g. kidney) and disease associations (e.g. diabetes). Feto-maternal tolerance will be discussed from the point of view of the foetus as a hemi-allograft in the mother carrying 50% of non-self-genes from the father. The BS326 module will also touch on aspects of developmental immunology including immunosenescence, and how immunity has evolved in the Animal Kingdom.

Module aims

The essence of the BS326 module is to understand how the immune system recognizes pathogens and infection.

Module learning outcomes

To pass this module, students will need to be able to:

1. describe the way cellular and molecular components of the immune system are integrated to provide immunorecognition in health and disease;
2. demonstrate how current landmark concepts in immunology evolved from hypothesis to experimental discovery;
3. to show an understanding on current developments in immunology and highlight controversial areas of knowledge;
4. to explain developmental aspects of immunity, both in the individual organism from conception to old age, and in evolution;
5. describe and discuss the way clinical intervention or immunotherapy can enable scientists to manipulate the immune system;
6. demonstrate competence in information retrieval and data analysis and interpretation.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures: 18 x 1h including 2hr data analysis and interpretation. Classes 2 x 1h Student managed learning: 130 hrs per module Total: 150 hours


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
0% 100%


Coursework Exam
0% 100%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Nelson Fernandez
School Undergraduate Office, email: bsugoffice (Non essex users should add to create the full email address)



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 21 hours, 21 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Life Sciences (School of)

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