Hello! I have just finished my undergraduate Master’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford. In October, I will be starting a DPhil researching a treatment for Ebola (I’m very excited!). My passion for science came from some great teachers at GCSE and A-level and I hope to be able support others through this part of their scientific education. What will we cover? Sessions will be guided by what you want to get out of them; exam preparation, extension beyond the curriculum or support within it (or a combination of all three!). Let me know before the session what problem or topic you want to focus on - my aim is that by the end of our time, you can explain it back to me. I know I remember things best when I have firm understanding of basic concepts and some memorable examples and cool facts to stick in my head. So I’ll aim to consolidate key ideas during the session and prepare some facts and examples before we start. Get in touch You can reach me via 'WebMail' or through a 'Meet the Tutor Session'. Let me know before we meet what you want to cover and your exam board. Look forward to hearing from you!
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Questions Francesca has answered
What are the functions of the cell membrane?
The cell membrane separates the intracellular and extracellular environments.
The lipid bilayer only allows small polar molecules (such as O2 or CO2), small
hydrophobic molecules (fatty acids, steroid hormones) and water to cross.
However charged ions and molecules, and large molecules (includ...The cell membrane separates the intracellular and extracellular environments. The lipid bilayer only allows small polar molecules (such as O2 or CO2), small hydrophobic molecules (fatty acids, steroid hormones) and water to cross. However charged ions and molecules, and large molecules (including proteins) cannot just diffuse across the membrane; they can only be transported across by other cellular mechanisms. They can be allowed to cross by a specific membrane protein. e.g. a glucose transporter protein makes the membrane selectively permeable to glucose. This means that molecules and ions can be at different concentrations inside and outside the cell, allowing gradients across the membrane (this is important in neurones for example).
The cell membrane also helps to communicate extracellular signals into the cell, usually via a sequence of interactions between different proteins, known as ‘signalling pathway’. Specific enzymatic modification of some of the lipids in cell membranes can transmit a signal into a cell. Membrane proteins can be receptors for an extracellular signal such as a protein (growth factor) or hormone (insulin). Activation of a receptor in the membrane activates a signalling pathway inside the cell.
Components of cell membranes allow cell-cell recognition; e.g. sperm and egg recognition in fertilisation.
In prokaryotic cells, which do not have intracellular organelles, the cell membrane is an important environment for the necessary reactions of the cell, e.g. the electron transport chain.see more
8 months ago
What is a pathogen?
A pathogen is a microorganism (e.g. virus, bacterium, protist, fungi) that
causes disease in animals or plants. Disease can be caused by damaging cells of
the infected organism by replicating inside them, or making toxins (poisons).
This makes us feel ill if we are infected by a pathogen. The ...A pathogen is a microorganism (e.g. virus, bacterium, protist, fungi) that causes disease in animals or plants. Disease can be caused by damaging cells of the infected organism by replicating inside them, or making toxins (poisons). This makes us feel ill if we are infected by a pathogen. The immune system protects us from infection by pathogens. Pathogens can be transmitted between hosts by direct contact, by water, air or contaminated surfaces.
Here are some examples of different types of pathogens, the diseases they cause and how they are transmitted.
Hepatitis C Virus infects and replicates in the human liver. By damaging liver cells this can cause liver disease and cancer. The virus can be transmitted between people by blood-to-blood contact; for example by sharing needles in IV drug use, or from mother to baby during childbirth.
Salmonella bacteria and the toxins they produce can cause food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning can include abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea. Salmonella are spread in ingested food or by food stored or prepared in unhygienic conditions.
Malaria is caused by protists called Plasmodium. These complicated pathogens have a life-cycle with different stages that allow it to live in two different hosts; humans and mosquitos. Humans become ill, but the mosquitos do not. The pathogen is spread when mosquitoes bite an infected person, take up some of the plasmodium and then bite an uninfected person. The mosquito is a ‘vector’ for the pathogen. Spread of the disease can be reduced by using mosquito nets, insecticides or by preventing mosquitos from breeding (To explore a new strategy, look up ‘self-limiting mosquitoes’). The pathogen replicates inside and destroys human blood cells, causing fevers and anaemia. They can also stick to the sides of blood vessels causing blockages that can affect the brain. Malaria still causes 400,000 deaths a year globally.
Additional information: A few pathogens are not microorganisms, but worms. For example, Tapeworms are parasites that live in the human gut and grow to several metres in length. Tapeworm eggs are excreted in human stools and if allowed to contaminate food can be transmitted to other people.
8 months ago
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