Fall 2021 - MBB 839 G100

Special Topics in Molecular Biology (3)

Stem Cell Biology & Applications

Class Number: 4132

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2021: Wed, 12:30–2:20 p.m.

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2021: Fri, 12:30–2:20 p.m.



Consideration of recent literature concerning selected contemporary research topics. Can be taken more than once with permission of instructor.


Description: This course will begin with a historical review of key discoveries in stem cell biology and is structured into three modules. In module 1, we will explore the foundational biology of stem cell populations: the defining characteristics and physiological relevance of natural and reprogrammed stem cell types including embryonic, neonatal, adult and induced pluripotent stem cells. In module 2, cutting-edge technological advances involving these various stem cell populations will be explored, including current state-of-the-art approaches in modeling tissue development and genetic diseases. Module 3 will focus on current and impending therapeutic applications of stem cells: implications toward human health, barriers to regulatory approval or commercialization, and ethical considerations in stem cell research and therapies.

Topics include:

  • What defines a “stem cell”
  • The breadth of embryonic and adult stem cell types
  • Stem cells as founders of tissue development, maintenance, and regeneration
  • Strategies to obtain pluripotent and somatic stem cells in vitro
  • Experimental approaches to examine cell fate decisions
  • How to manipulate stem cells to promote tissue development and regeneration
  • Modeling genetic diseases in a dish
  • The potential of human stem cell therapies
  • Ethical considerations in stem cell research and therapies
  • Examining fact from fiction in stem cell-based literature and popular press


  • Writing project 40%
  • Weekly quizzes and participation 15%
  • Peer review 15%
  • Presentations 30%




This course is based on the primary literature (journal articles), which will be provided as supplementary material. There is no required text book.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site 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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.