With the sequencing of the human genome, a challenge for medical educators is to prepare students to understand and treat developmental disorders at the genetic as well as cell and tissue level. At the same time, the traditional goals of an embryology course -- understanding the organization of the embryo, how signaling molecules influence the final patterning and structure of the tissues and organs of the body, must also be achieved. With these overarching goals, the specific goals of embryology in the University of Michigan Medical School curriculum are to provide this information to you in the context of normal development and following errors (both genetic and environmental) in development.
Initially, we will examine the formation of germ cells, fertilization, cleavage and implantation of the embryo, formation first of a two-layered embryo, a three-layered embryo at gastrulation, followed by the process by which the nervous system is formed, neurulation and neural crest migration. We will then consider how the embryonic body plan is developed, the musculoskeletal system, gut and primitive heart development. After four weeks, the basic body plan of the human embryo and the rudiments of the major organ systems have been laid down, there is an embryonic heartbeat, and the neural tube has closed throughout its length. Lectures on reproductive technologies and the derivation and uses of stem cells, primarily embryonic stem (ES) cells, but also tissue-derived or adult stem cells complete the first week.
The embryology course will build on this basic organization to understand the organogenesis of the major structures of the body, the: cardiovascular and respiratory systems, reproductive, kidney, face and pharynx, endocrine development, defects of development (teratology), and changes in the fetus at birth. During each lecture, we will correlate normal development with errors in that process.
How to Study for this Course
The best way to conquer embryology is to read the assigned text material prior to coming to class. Then you will be able to sit back, add a few notes to the lecture outlines and participate in class. The lecture handouts will contain the assigned readings, lecture outline, learning objectives and copies of powerpoint slides. Slides and movies will be available in the M1 embryology folder on the portal. Like the assigned readings, the self-study material is a required portion of the course.
Embryology can be difficult because it requires good three-dimensional skills, like gross anatomy, but additionally requires understanding of how the structures change through time; i.e., four dimensional representations! Another challenge in embryology is learning the many new terms that are used to refer to the developing embryo.
The textbook, Langman’s Essential Medical Embryology, 10th edition is basically an outline of embryology, but there is a good glossary of terms and a CD with movies to illustrate three dimensional development. Unfortunately, the bookstore substituted the 11th edition; therefore this revision.
There are many other good textbooks and some of the handout and lecture figures will be drawn from these other sources. Four of these are:
Bruce M. Carlson
Human Embryology & Developmental Biology, Third Edition
Scott F. Gilbert
Sinauer Associates Publishers
Keith L Moore, TVN Persaud
The Developing Human: Clinically-Oriented Embryology
William J Larsen
Essentials of Human Embryology
Churchill Livingstone Publishers
Although embryology is part of the growth and development sequence, it will be examined and graded separately, similar to the patients and populations sequence. You can expect approximately 40 points (questions) on the first exam after week one, and about 60 points on the final.