The Toxicology programme from University of Birmingham acts as a conversion course taking students at entry from a variety of backgrounds and giving them new skills to enable them to move into research and employment in a number of disciplines.
The MSc in Toxicology programme aims to:
The MSc programme is of 12 months duration commencing in late September, and comprises four taught modules, a skills module, a synoptic module and a research project. To accommodate students who might be released from their posts in industry for short periods, or those wishing to undertake part-time study for other reasons, modules can also be taken separately over a period of 2 years.
The taught modules (5 or 6 weeks long) are as follows (descriptions below):
Generic and specific skills training is embedded throughout the taught modules, and during the year you will visit a number of external establishments involved with toxicology. The research project (12 weeks from May to August) takes place in a university, research institute, industry or a hospital environment. Many take place away from the University and/or Birmingham giving you the opportunity to experience other working environments.
The module describes the disposition of foreign compounds within the body of living organisms. It covers the methods used to study xenobiotic metabolism; their absorption and distribution and excretion, and includes the application of molecular biology techniques to drug metabolism and pharmacogenetics.
The major metabolic pathways are described including phase I and phase II reactions. The effect of species, age, sex and nutrition on these reactions is included. Metabolism and distribution are discussed as a basis for the toxicity of a range of xenobiotics.
This six week module consists of two weeks of lectures in clinical pharmacology / forensic toxicology and two weeks of lectures in clinical toxicology. The lectures are given by clinicians and research staff from the Division of Medical Sciences at the University of Birmingham, the Regional Toxicology Laboratories and the National Poisons Information Service/West Midlands Poisons Unit as well as external lectures from industry.
The module covers the principles of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and pharmacogenetics in the context of drug development and adverse drug reactions. The effects of poisoning with a wide range of pharmacological and chemical agents are detailed along with aspects of diagnosis and management. Methods used to detect drugs of abuse and other toxic agents are described together with their application in investigation of deaths
The module describes molecular mechanisms of toxicity, including the induction of necrosis and apoptosis, by such processes as covalent binding oxidative toxicity, lipid peroxidation, aberrant Ca2+ status, receptor interactions and altered gene expression.
The mechanisms of carcinogenesis are covered and include the contribution of oncogenes, tumour suppressor genes in cell cycle control. DNA damage and mutations are considered alongside non-genotoxic influences on carcinogenesis including the action of peroxisome proliferators.
Specialised topics such as immunotoxicity and in vitro toxicity testing are included as is a computer-assisted study on structure toxicity relationships. Recent developments in high throughput screening and the application of molecular biology including genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics to toxicology are discussed.
The module focuses on the assessment of chemical toxicity and includes core training in the statistical analysis required to undertake this successfully. Students learn how to detect acute and chronic toxicity in animal studies with emphasis been placed on pathological responses to toxic substances in different organ systems (e.g. kidney, liver, lung, blood). Students will learn to recognise acute and chronic inflammation, necrosis, neoplasia, hypertrophy and other cellular changes as demonstrated by histology. Students will also consider the choice of experimental species to demonstrate toxicity and reproductive toxicology where the effects of toxic compounds on fertility and embryogenesis will be discussed.
The second part of the module centres on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology. Students are taught how toxic compounds can lead to occupational disease and how this is assessed and managed by monitoring, epidemiological studies and the setting of appropriate safety standards in the work place. Students also consider the effects of chemicals on the environment. Air, water and land contamination and effect on humans and non human species is investigated. This includes lectures on assessment procedures, regulatory aspects and environmental control and remediation.
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