Fall 2023 - BISC 472 D100

Special Topics in Cells, Molecules and Physiology (3)

Early life and health

Class Number: 1985

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Mon, Wed, Fri, 11:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

    Oct 10, 2023: Tue, 11:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 9, 2023
    Sat, 12:00–3:00 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    To be announced.



Selected topics in areas not currently offered within the undergraduate course offerings in the Department of Biological Sciences.


Course Title: Early Life and Health

Prerequisites: BISC 205 or BPK 205 or HSCI 216 and MBB 231 with a grade of C- or better.

Note:This course may be applied toward the Cells, Molecules and Physiology Concentration.

Health research has traditionally focused on how genetics, current environment and lifestyle influence predisposition to disease. However, it is becoming clear that the early life environment, and even the preconception environment of the parents, can affect adult health as much as genetics, adult environment and behaviour. This course will examine the evidence for the developmental origins of health and disease, the underlying biology, and the cutting-edge technology being used in this emerging field of research. Tutorial activities will develop skills in the development of hypotheses and predictions, study design, and data analysis, providing students with opportunities to explore how their own areas of interest intersect with this developing field.

Topics to be covered:

  • Evidence of the developmental origins of health and disease
  • Genetics and epigenetics
  • Human development from egg and sperm until birth
  • The placenta
  • Examples of how the early-life environment affects various aspects of health (e.g., mental health, hypertension, diabetes), and the underlying mechanisms
  • Interventions to reverse adverse programming effects


  • • Midterm Exam #1 20%
  • • Midterm Exam #2 20%
  • • Final Exam 35%
  • • Tutorial activities 25%



No textbook required (readings will be available through the library)


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.