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Programmed cell death

Billions of cells in the body die every day. How and why do these cells die? If you want to know the answers to these questions and if you also would like to know how scientists figured them out, this course might interest you.


Course at a Glance

About the Course

In this course, you will learn about the conserved, molecular machinery that eliminates cells through programmed cell death type I, also referred to as ‘apoptosis’. Through apoptosis many cells are eliminated from our body during development and throughout adult life, and deregulated apoptosis can lead to various diseases such as cancer and auto-immune diseases. Rather than just telling you about the molecular machinery of apoptosis and how it works to kill cells, I will walk you through and discuss with you the critical experiments that led to the discovery of the key components of this molecular machinery and the mechanisms through which they function. I will also discuss how apoptosis research can help to develop novel therapeutics and consider the questions that remain open in the field.

The course will cover the following topics:

1.      Introduction to programmed cell death and apoptosis

2.      The BCL-2 family of proteins

3.      Apaf proteins

4.      Caspases

5.      Mechanisms that regulate apoptosis

6.      Non-apoptotic functions of components of the central apoptosis machinery

7.      Diseases caused by deregulated apoptosis

Recommended Background

A basic understanding of genetics and molecular and cell biology would be advantageous.

Course Format

This course will consist of weekly video lectures, which will contain 2-3 integrated quiz questions per video. At the conclusion of every second week, there will be a graded quiz on the course material:

- Week 2: Quiz on Weeks 1 and 2 (30%)
- Week 4: Quiz on Weeks 3 and 4 (30%)
- Week 6: Cumulative exam covering all material (40%)


  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.