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BSc Anatomical Sciences / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Human Reproductive Biology (E)

Unit code BIOL31561
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


In this unit, students from a wide range of backgrounds explore how reproduction is controlled, influenced by medical and pharmacological intervention and affected by disease.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Endocrinology BIOL21261 Pre-Requisite Recommended


This integrative unit teaches students the basic science underpinning reproductive processes, including elements of endocrinology, cell and developmental biology, vascular biology and physiology. We aim to train them to link foundational knowledge to contemporary advances in reproductive biology as well as current developments and practice in reproductive and fetal medicine.   In addition to teaching basic mechanisms, we offer students insight into disorders that affect a significant proportion of pregnancies, including miscarriage, preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction, and help them develop an understanding of how disease in late pregnancy is caused by earlier events and the consequences for mother and baby.  

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this unit, students will have gained an overall understanding of human reproduction, its associated technologies and reproductive disorders. They will be able to describe:

  • The mechanisms of action of peptide and steroid hormones;
  • Gamete production in male and female, fertilisation, the pre-implantation embryo, implantation, placental function and parturition;
  • How this knowledge is put to use in assisted reproduction
  • How imaging techniques can reveal embryonic and fetal growth;
  • How genetics has been exploited in mouse and human to probe aspects of reproductive physiology.
  • How events before and during pregnancy can influence health in later life

They will be able to integrate this knowledge into outputs that draw on a range of course topics and show an awareness of current advances.


  • Hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.
  • Steroids and their receptors.
  • Spermatogenesis, testicular stem cells and fertility in the male.
  • Ovarian and uterine function in the menstrual cycle.
  • Fertilisation and pre-implantation development.
  • Assited reproductive technologies. 
  • Implantation, placental development and fetal imaging
  • Vascular adaptations in pregnancy.
  • The major diseases of pregnancy: miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction.
  • Mechanism of parturition.
  • Developmental programming: how events during embryonic and fetal life affect health in the adult.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Material from different parts of the course has to be understood in its own right, building on the foundations of previous knowledge, then brought together to reach a level of understanding that allows links between topics to be perceived and understood, as for example in parallels between male and female gonadal function, or hormone action across the two reproductive tracts.
In the context of integrative thinking and developing expertise in the appropriate uses of outside information. Also in the use of diagrams and flow charts in examinations.
Oral communication
Students draft essay answers and formulate questions, based on their current understanding, to initiate face-to-face dialogue with tutors at the clinics. Students learn that such dialogue works best if the tutor can perceive the specific impediment to understanding, and not just the subject area in which it is located.
Problem solving
Online quizzes.
Background reading to consolidate lecture information into a coherent understanding of complex topics. Exploration of current findings is encouraged by means of directed reading.
Written communication
Students can formulate reasonable questions for email dialogue with tutors. The course has a strong focus on integrative thinking, especially in relation to examination essay questions.
The course provides students with an insight into the way basic science studies in reproduction have led to medical advances that have a profound impact on lifestyles and choices regarding family size and personal health. The raised awareness of the science-societal interface that students acquire is generalizable to other areas of science, medicine and health, and will be of value in many workplace settings.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 5%
Written exam 95%

2 hour written examination (95%);

Other - on-line evaluation (5%)

Feedback methods

Feedback is provided via interactive Blackboard packages and posts. On-line evaluations (5%) support in-session study of key terminology and concepts and generate mid-course feedback. During the course there are also face-to-face discussion sessions with tutors, centred around past exam questions.There is a  post-exam clinic.

Recommended reading

Compulsory, recommended, background and further reading are provided in the lectures.  Lecturers make frequent references to other lectures to help students recognise links between topics and integrate the course content.  To some extent outside reading depends on the background of the individual, and students are expected to fill in or revise topics upon which they are rusty.  For example, some life sciences students may not have studied the menstrual cycle or steroid hormones since A level.  Students should make sure that the necessary basic foundations are in place by cross-referencing between lectures, and only then extend their reading to encompass recent advances.  Detailed guidance about reading is given on the course Blackboard site..


General sources:

  • Johnson M (2018) Essential Reproduction (8th edition) Blackwell Science.
  • Jones RE (2006) Human Reproductive Biology (3rd edition) Academic Press (revision and refresher)
  • Heffner LJ and Schust DJ (2010) The Reproductive System at a Glance (3rd Edn).Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Knobil E and Neill J D (eds) (1998) Encyclopaedia of Reproduction. Academic Press

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
eAssessment 1.5
Lectures 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 79

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
John Aplin Unit coordinator

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