MSci Developmental Biology / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Cardiovascular Systems (E)

Unit code BIOL31582
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


You will study  the normal physiology of the cardiovascular system and the mechanisms underlying its major pathologies such as heart failure, hypertension and stroke.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Gut and Renal Human Physiology BIOL21272 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Cell Membrane Structure & Function BIOL21141 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Membrane Excitability: Ion Channels & Transporters in Action BIOL21321 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL31582 Pre-requisites are EITHER BIOL21141 OR BIOL21321


  • BIOL21141 Cell Membrane Structure and FunctionPre-Requisite Compulsory OR
  • BIOL21321 Membrane Excitability: Ion Channels & Transporters in Action - Pre-Requisite Compulsory


To provide an understanding of the normal physiology of the cardiovascular system and the mechanisms underlying its major pathologies.

Learning outcomes

•       describe the ionic basis of the resting membrane and action potentials in the heart and the steps involved in coupling electrical activity to the development of active force.

•       describe the intracellular mechanisms by which it may be possible to alter the contractile state of the heart and the changes in ion channel function that occur in various heart diseases.

•       describe neural, endothelial and pharmacological mediation of excitation-contraction coupling in vascular smooth muscle.

•       describe the risk factors for hypertension and the mechanisms underlying the development of primary and secondary hypertension.

•       describe the causes and consequences of stroke and current limitations in stroke therapy.



•       Introduction to Unit: Overview of cardiovascular system

•       Electrophysiology of the heart: Cardiac action potential; excitation-contraction coupling; Cardiac inotropy; heart failure, ageing and arrhythmias

•       Blood vessels: Regulation of blood vessel tone; Specialised circulations - inc. skeletal muscle, coronary, cerebral & pulmonary

•       Hypertension: Epidemiology and risk factors for hypertension; Secondary hypertension - renal and adrenal mechanisms; Primary hypertension - vascular and renal mechanisms.

•       Stroke: Cerebrovascular disease: role of inflammation; treatment & future perspectives

e-Learning Activity

Online, summative self-assessment tests (x3) designed to test both factual recall and deeper understanding of more complex concepts.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Online assessments designed to test understanding of complex concepts and may require students to think analytically about a topic.
Students will be recommended review and primary research papers to read for particular lectures and should read appropriate textbooks for background material.
Written communication
Written essays in the exam require students to demonstrate their knowledge of a topic by structuring answers in a clear and logical manner.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 1%
Written exam 95%
Set exercise 5%

Exam - 2 hour written examination (95%) - answer any two questions out of five

Coursework - 3 online multiple choice question (MCQ) assessments (5%) of 18 questions each (54 in total).

Feedback methods

Individual feedback will be provided through online self-assessment tests to help students identify strengths and weaknesses in their understanding.

Recommended reading

Review and primary research papers will be recommended by individual lectures. The following textbooks will provide helpful background material.

Recommended Reading

  1. Cheriyan, J., McEniery, C.M & Wilkinson I.B, Hypertension, Oxford University Press, 2010, Recommended
  2. Katz, AM, Physiology of the Heart, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010, Recommended

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 80

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicholas Ashton Unit coordinator

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