Human Reproductive Biology

Unit Objectives

The major objective of this course is to provide students with a sound coverage of human reproductive biology within the framework of Human Biology. This is achieved by first covering fundamentals of the structure and function of the male and female reproductive tracts, gametogenesis, fertilization, early embryogenesis, fetal development and preparation for birth, and maternal adaptations to pregnancy. In all cases the unit builds on the material covered in Human Biology I, and particular emphasis is placed on the hormonal control of reproduction. This in turn provides an important foundation to consider sexual differentiation and development, contraception, infertility and current reproductive technologies. Finally, human reproductive behaviour and its implications to our future are considered in the light of our evolutionary history, culture and society.

 

Desired Outcomes

Skills. At the completion of this unit students should be able to:
· Present clear and reasoned argument in written and oral work.
· Use the library resources, including databases, to obtain information pertaining to Human Reproductive Biology.
· Critically assess relevant scientific literature in Human Reproductive Biology and present their argument in oral and written work.
· Critically assess media reports on topics related to Human Reproductive Biology and present their arguments orally and written.
· Cooperate with other students to complete tasks and solve problems by working in small groups
· Describe the use of various research approaches to study issues in Human Reproductive Biology from the level of molecular to biology to the level of the species.
· Correctly operate a light microscope

  • Knowledge. At the completion of this unit students should be able to:
    Scientific principles and general biology
    · Correctly use units of measurement to describe weight, volume, length, concentration and pressure.
    · Use correct terminology to describe biological rhythms.
    · Describe the structure, function and mode of action of the major male and female reproductive hormones.
    · Describe the determinants of hormonal action including their mode of transport, secretion pattern, concentration and action of receptors.
    Female reproductive biology
    · Name, identify and describe the gross and histological appearance of the major components of the human female reproductive tract.
    · Relate the structural characteristics to the function of each part of the tract.
    · Describe the major changes that occur in the female reproductive tract over the menstrual cycle.
    · Describe the hormonal control of ovarian function.
    · Describe the embryonic development of the female reproductive system and the role of hormones in its control.
    · Relate the structural changes in the female reproductive system associated with age (eg puberty, sexual maturity, menopause) to functional changes and consider the evolutionary basis for the timing of these events.
    · Understand risk factors for cancers of the female reproductive tract and consider the role of hormones in their development and treatment.
    Male reproductive biology
    · Name, identify and describe the gross and histological appearance of the major components of the human male reproductive tract.
    · Relate the structural characteristics to the function of each part of the tract.
    · Describe the hormonal control of testicular function.
    · Relate the stages of meiosis to gametogenesis in males and females.
    · Compare and contrast gametogenesis in males and females.
    · Describe the embryonic development of the male reproductive system and the role of hormones in its control.
    · Relate the structural changes in the male reproductive system associated with age (eg puberty, sexual maturity, senescence) to functional changes and consider the evolutionary basis for the timing of these events.
    · Understand risk factors for cancers of the male reproductive tract and consider the role of hormones in their development and treatment.
    Gamete transport & Fertilization
    · Describe the transport of sperm from the male reproductive tract at ejaculation, including the origin and role of each of the seminal constituents.
    · Describe the transport of sperm from the vagina to the uterine tube.
    · Describe the process of fertilization, including the important role of the acrosome reaction and the zona pellucida sperm binding sites ZP3 and ZP2.
    Implantation and Placentation
    · Describe the process of human implantation and decidualization of the endometrium
    · Describe the histological structure of the mature placenta, and the structural and functional changes in the placenta over the course of pregnancy.
    · Describe the major endocrine and transport functions of the human placenta.
    Fetal Growth and Development
    · Describe the pattern of normal fetal growth and its regulation throughout gestation.
    · List the major physical milestones reached by the fetus throughout gestation.
    · Using crown rump length, weight, femur length, foot length and knowledge of physical development estimate the age of fetuses throughout gestation.
    · Describe the approaches that are currently used to monitor fetal development and well-being and consider the ethical implications of these techniques.
    · List the most common forms of fetal malformations and their incidence.
    Birth and Lactation
    · Describe the maternal adaptations to pregnancy, including physical, physiological and psychological in the light of human evolutionary history.
    · Describe the process of normal human parturition and its hormonal control.
    · Understand the hormonal basis of current approaches used for therapeutic induction of labour.
    · Describe the development of the human mammary gland including its gross and histological appearance in the resting and lactating state.
    · Understand the major hormonal signals controlling breast development and lactation.
    · Describe the short and long term benefits of breast feeding and consider factors that influence the success and duration of breast feeding.
    Social Issues in Human Reproduction
    · Describe how medical treatment of perinatal loss has changed over time and the reasons behind the changes.
    · Discuss the impact of modern medical technology on attitudes to perinatal loss.
    · Describe the mode of action, and advantages and disadvantages of available contraceptives.
    · Decribe the major factors influencing contraceptive use by different populations groups and the importance of effective contraception to population health.
    · Describe developments of new contraceptives.
    · Consider the factors influencing population growth.
    · Explain the ultimate and proximate causes of human female and male subfertility.
    · Describe the major treatments available for infertility and the social and ethical issues associated with these treatments.
    · Explain the main causes and social and biological consequences of sexually transmitted infection.