DiseaseTrace 2023

Tracing disease through time 

Module code


Abbreviated title


Module components

Lectures, seminars


Semesters 2+3

Module coordinator/


A. Nebel/


3rd semester electives: Experimental Trauma Surgery (Regen. Medicine), Dermatology (Epithelial barrier functions), Neurology (Neurosciences), IKMB (Metabolomics), University Cancer Center Schleswig-Holstein [UCCSH] (Molecular Diagnostics), IfE (Cardiovascular epidemiology)


Tracing disease through time: A. Nebel, K. Fuchs, B. Krause-Kyora (IKMB) and guest lecturers

Electives 3rd semester:

a. Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering: S. Fuchs (Experimental trauma surgery)

b. Epithelial barrier functions: J. Harder (Dermatology)

c. Clinical, molecular and diagnostic neurosciences:  F. Leypoldt (Neurology and Clinical Chemistry), G. Kuhlenbäumer, C. Stürner (Neurology)

d. Molecular Diagnostics: S. Lipinski (UCCSH), L. Bastian, C. Baldus, M. Brüggemann, C. Pott (Klinik für Innere Medizin II)

e. Cardiovascular epidemiology: W. Lieb (IfE)

Contact hours

Semester 2:
Lecture Tracing disease 2 CH         Seminar Tracing disease 1 CH
Semester 3:
Lecture Tracing disease 1 CH         Seminar Tracing disease 2 CH
Semester 3 elective:
Lecture 1 CH                                     Seminar 2 CH












Total: 240 h

Lecture semester 2:  60 h
Attendance time 26 h, preparation 14 h, revision 20 h
Seminar semester 2: 30 h
Attendance time 14 h, preparation 6 h, revision 10 h

Lecture semester 3: 30 h
Attendance time 14 h, preparation 10 h, revision 6 h
Seminar semester 3: 60 h
Attendance time 26 h, preparation 20 h, revision 14 h
Elective semester 3 lecture: 30 h
Attendance time 14 h, preparation 6, revision 10 h

Elective semester 3 seminar: 30 h

Attendance time 26 h, preparation 4 h

Credit points

8 (sem. 2 lecture = 2 CP, sem. 2 seminar = 1 CP, sem. 3 lecture = 1 CP, sem. 3 seminar = 2 CP; 3rd-sem. elective lecture + seminar = 1 CP each)



Expected outcome

Tracing disease through time

Knowledge: Students

- are familiar with analytical techniques (e.g. genetic, biochemical, chemical) and approaches used for the study of ancient biomolecules, diets and diseases

- understand how specimens are recovered from field situations, archived sources and collections

- have a basic knowledge of human osteology, paleopathology, epidemiology

- have gained an understanding of historical events as an important factor in disease etiology and epidemiology

- have acquired insights not only into the health status in past societies but also into how new diseases emerge in present-day populations.

Skills: Students

- can demonstrate the use of analytical methods for the investigation of ancient biomolecules, diets and diseases

- can apply basic osteological methods

- can perform literature research and give presentations on a specific topic in front of their peers.

Competences: Students

- can assess the importance of the interrelations between environmental and societal conditions that contribute to the onset and human impact of disease through time

- recognize which key questions need to be asked for investigating scientific problems concerning disease spreading geographically and chronologically and can formulate them accordingly.


Electives 3rd semester

a. Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering

Knowledge: Students

- are familiar with the principles and potential fields of application of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine including the use of adult stem cells, biomaterials, bioactive molecules.

- can define different cellular and molecular mechanisms in tissue repair

- understand 3-D cultures.

Skills: Students

- can define and isolate adult stem cells in cell cultures in the laboratory

- can handle co-culture models in the laboratory  

- can apply models to study angiogenesis and wound repair

- can apply methods to evaluate repair mechanisms.

Competences: Students

- are able to apply interdisciplinary approaches to support tissue regeneration

- can develop translational strategies.

b. Epithelial barrier functions:

Knowledge: Students

- are familiar with the importance of epithelia as physiological barrier against potentially detrimental environmental factors

- understand the molecular mechanisms of epithelia for protecting the integrity of their barrier function.

Skills: Students can associate disruptions of the epithelial barrier with specific disease manifestations.

Competences: Students

- can assess the impact of epithelial barrier disruptions for specific disease manifestations

- are able to understand scientific papers, to evaluate and discuss them critically with colleagues.

c. Clinical, molecular and diagnostic neurosciences

Knowledge: Students

- have a general understanding of clinical assessment, clinical syndromes, major categories of neurological diseases and diagnostic procedures

- have a general understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying neurological disease, their disease models and techniques used in studying them.

Skills: Students

- are able to apply disease models to human diseases and develop them into translational research

- are able to critically discuss relevant scientific publications and draw conclusions for own research projects.

- can perform literature research self-reliantly.

Competences: Students

- are able to communicate with clinical neurologists.

- are able to select suitable methods to address specific neuroscientific questions.

d. Molecular diagnostics:

Knowledge: Students

- understand which influence molecular biology has on state-of-the-art diagnostic methods in medicine, with a particular view to cancer

- can explain what precision/personalized medicine is and why this requires particular diagnostic tools

- have a good understand of current immunotherapy approaches (e.g. immune checkpoint inhibitors)

- are familiar with the theoretical background of basic diagnostic approaches in molecular biology

- understand the workflow from sample processing to treatment recommendation.

Skills: Students

- can conduct a set series of diagnostic routines including samples preparation (e.g. extraction of nucleic acids from blood and tissues, quality check, qPCR, ddPCR, exome sequencing)

- can apply software (self-programmed and software packages) to analyse data resulting from sample processing

- can use quality control measures to ensure correct sample processing and error eradication in data analysis

- are able to establish complete documentation of sample processing and data analysis, case based.

Competences: Students

- can establish connections between theoretical knowledge in molecular biology and determined tumour samples to arrive at the best suitable diagnostic approaches for individual samples.

- can use gene data bases for extracting relevant information for a given data set of a processed tumour sample with regard to formulating potential treatment suggestions.

- are able to transfer case knowledge onto a meta level for further research in precision medicine.

e. Cardiovascular epidemiology

Knowledge: Students

- have a good understanding of essential methods used in cardiovascular epidemiology

- are familiar with the clinical manifestation of major cardiovascular diseases and their traditional risk factors

- have a good understanding of new, emerging risk factors (e.g. biomarkers) for cardiovascular diseases.

Skills: Students

- can explain the interrelation of risk factors and disease risks for cardiovascular diseases.

Competencies: Students

- can assess diagnostic and screening markers and evaluate their potential areas of application

- can assess different models of risk prediction and judge the additional contribution of new biomarkers beyond established risk factors.


Tracing disease through time

Lectures: Revision of biomolecules (DNA, proteins, lipids, stable isotopes), analysis of ancient biomolecules, introduction to field work and sample acquisition, chronology and dating, preservation and taphonomy, insights into forensics, skeletal anatomy, analysis of skeletal remains (age at death, sex), skeletal pathology, genetic sex determination and kinship analysis, historical epidemiology and demography, triggers of changes in health and disease, reconstruction of diet, biomolecular diagnosis of ancient diseases, pathogen and disease gene evolution, state-of-the-art and emerging technologies (e.g. 3rd generation sequencing).


Consolidation and expansion of knowledge acquired through presentations of current articles, lab tutorials, visits of labs (with experiment demonstrations), visits to museums/archives and excavations for behind-the-scenes perspectives.


Electives 3rd semester

a. Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering

Lecture: Definitions of and examples for regenerative medicine and tissue engineering; interdisciplinary approaches in regenerative medicine; adult stem cells; biocompatibility and functionality of implant materials, bioactive molecules, vascularisation as key issue for tissue repair, co-culture models, models for studying angiogenesis, inflammation and tissue repair.

Seminar: Discussions of scientific papers on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine with integrated lab experience in experiments using techniques introduced in both lecture and seminar.

b. Epithelial barrier functions:

Lecture: Structure and cellular components of epithelia (skin, intestine and respiratory tract); physical barrier functions; strategies for identification and differentiation of pathogenic micro-organisms and members of the commensal microbiota; extracellular and intracellular effector mechanisms for controlling microbial growth; provision of mediators for activation and recruitment of effector cells.

Seminar: Hypotheses and discussion: how can dysregulation of the epithelial barrier lead to epithelial infectious and inflammatory diseases; discussion of scientific papers, presentation of current research results.

c. Clinical, molecular and diagnostic neurosciences

Lecture: Clinical diagnostic techniques, movement/neurodegenerative dis-orders, neuroimmunology, neurovascular diseases, peripheral nervous system, neuroscience of pain, neuroscience of epilepsy.

Seminar: Presentation of scientific articles by the students followed by critical group discussion.

d. Molecular diagnostics:

Lecture: Somatic cancer mutations and driver genes, concept of personalized medicine, classes of biomarkers, diagnostic tools: qPCR, ddPR, panel diagnostics; data analysis and interpretation: limits of detection, SNP analysis, databases; practicalities in medicine: health insurance coverage and diagnostics, time-sensitivity, patient-based science

Lab seminar: Workflow and methods in a diagnostic lab, conducting lab diagnostics

Computer seminar: Data analysis using bioinformatics and databases

e. Cardiovascular epidemiology

Lecture: Epidemiological methods and study designs; contribution of cohort studies to cardiovascular epidemiology; global burden of cardiovascular disease; traditional and novel risk factors (including genomic and metabolomic markers); assessment of new biomarkers and their performance; concepts of screening and risk prediction; subclinical cardiovascular disease; various forms of clinical manifestations of cardiovascular disease (e.g. stroke, myocardial infarction, heart failure).

Seminars: Discussion of scientific papers and important concepts of cardiovascular epidemiology

Module evaluation/



Oral exam

Media used

PPT presentations, handouts, textbooks, example experiments


Tracing disease through time

Brown Terry and Keri, Biomolecular Archaeology: An introduction (Wiley-Blackwell 2011) [still valid]

Butler John M, Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing: Methodology (Academic Press 2011) [still valid]

Dupras T L, Schultz J J, Wheeler S M, Williams L J, Forensic Recovery of Human Remains: Archaeological Approaches (Routledge Taylor & Francis Group 2nd edition, 2021)

White T, Folkens PA, Human Bone Manual (Academic Press 2nd edition, 2005) [still valid]

Mays S, The Archeology of human bones (Routledge Taylor & Francis Group 3rd edition, 2021)

a. Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering

von Blitterswijk C, de Boer J, Tissue Engineering (Elsevier 3rd edition, 2022)

Current scientific papers

b. Epithelial barrier functions

Kabelitz D, Schröder J-M, Mechanisms of Epithelial Defense (Karger 2005) [still valid]

Gallo R, Hooper L, Epithelial antimicrobial defence of the skin and intestine (Nature Reviews Immunology, vol. 12, July 2012)

Leiva-Juarez M M, Kolls J K, Evans S E, Lung epithelial cells: therapeutically inducible effetors of antimicrobial defense (Mucosal Immunology, vol. 11, no. 1, January 2018)

Current scientific publications

c. Clinical, molecular and diagnostic neurosciences

Kandel E R, Kessell T M, Siegelbaum S A, Principles of Neural Science (McGraw Hill 6th edition, 2021)

Ropper A, Samuels M, Klein J, Prasad S, Adams and Victor’s Principles of Neurology (McGraw Hill 11th edition, 2019)

Research and review articles

d. Molecular diagnostics

William Coleman, Gregory Tsongalis: The Molecular Basis of Human Disease (Academic Press, 2nd edition, 2017)

Gregory Tsongalis: Advances in Molecular Pathology, volume 4-1

(Elsevier 2021)

Bailey M et al.: Comprehensive Characterization of Cancer Driver Genes and Mutations (Cell, Volume 173, Issue 2, 2018)

e. Cardiovascular epidemiology

Rothman K, Epidemiology - An introduction (OUP 2nd edition, 2012) [still valid]
Oleckno WA, Epidemiology: Concepts and Methods (Waveland Press Inc. 2008) [still valid]

Current scientific publications