MSci Medical Physiology / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Ion Transport in Health & Disease (E)

Unit code BIOL31622
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


Ion channels and transporters have essential roles in the control of cellular activity. Building directly on the knowledge developed in Biol31591 Advanced Ion Transport, this unit explores in depth the roles of ion channels and transporters in disease (e.g. cardiac arrhythmias, cancer and diabetes). You will also learn how these proteins can be targeted selectively with drugs, including biologics, to treat clinical conditions caused by the malfunction of ion channel and transporter proteins.




Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Excitable Cells: the Foundations of Neuroscience BIOL10832 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Advanced Ion Transport (E) BIOL31591 Co-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL31591 is a co-requisite of BIOL31622


Ion channels and transporters have essential roles in the control of cellular activity. This unit aims to acquaint students with the roles of ion channels and transporters in clinical conditions (e.g. cardiac arrhythmias, cancer, diabetes) and the means to exploit these proteins as therapeutic targets.


Learning outcomes

Students should recognise the pivotal role of ion channels and transporters in cellular activity and understand the consequences of disturbance to normal activity (resulting from genetic aberration, disease or drug action). Students will also have developed skills in information gathering and evaluation of published material.



  • Pharmacology: Site of action and effects of drugs which modify the activity (ie. stimulating opening or inhibiting) of specific potassium, calcium and sodium channels; therapeutic use/potential of such drugs.
  • Cardiac ion channels: Physiological role of the different ion channels involved in each phase of atrial and ventricular action potentials. Benefits and hazards of changes in channel activity (genetic or drug-induced).
  • Channels involved in signalling: Role of intracellular calcium channels (inositol trisphosphate and ryanodine receptors) in the release of calcium from intracellular stores and the mechanisms for store refilling. The concept of channels as sensors for pH, temperature, taste or mechanical stress will be introduced.
  • Anion channels and transporters: physiological role and regulation of channels and transporters involved in the movement of chloride ions across plasma membranes. Therapeutic use/potential of drugs which modify chloride channel activity.
  • Channelopathies: throughout the module, diseases caused by gene mutations which modify ion channel or transporter activity will be described.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
On-line questions will require analysis.
Oral communication
Students are encouraged to answer questions during lectures.
Problem solving
On-line questions will require problem-solving.
This is a final year unit and the lecture content is provided by research-active academics with emphasis on current research. Students are encouraged to read around the subject and, in addition to their own literature-based research, are directed to additional scientific papers to enhance their knowledge.
Written communication
On-line questions.
After each lecture students are encouraged to undertake additional reading and both self-discipline and time management are important skills which good students will develop in doing this.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 5%
Written exam 95%

2 hour examination (95%);

Other - online assessments (5%)

Feedback methods

Verbal feedback during lectures; Discussion Board; online assessments.

Recommended reading

References specific to individual lectures will also be recommended by the lecturers.

Recommended Reading

  1. Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, Morgan D, Raff M, Roberts K & Walter P, Molecular Biology of the Cell (6th edition), Garland Science, 2014, Recommended
  2. Ashcroft, FM, Ion Channels and Disease, Academic Press, 2003, Reference
  3. Boron, WF & Boulpaep, EL, Medical Physiology: A Cellular and Molecular Approach (2nd edition), Saunders, 2008, Recommended
  4. Rang HP, Dale MM, Ritter JM, Flower R & Henderson, G, Rang & Dale's Pharmacology (7th edition), Churchill Livingstone, 2012, Background

Study hours

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

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