The MSc is of 12 months duration commencing late September and can be take either full-time over one year or part-time over two years. It comprises six 20 credit taught modules and a 60 credit research project. There are two taught modules in both semester 1 and 2 that run in parallel and are taught on Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday respectively making the course suitable for part-time students who can take one module each semester over a 2-year period:
- Module 1 Metabolism and Mechanisms of Toxicity
- Module 2 Forensic, Clinical and Occupational Toxicology
- Module 3 Assessing Toxic Potential
- Module 4 Regulatory Science and Toxicology for the 21st Century
Twenty credits of generic and specific training is embedded throughout the taught modules reinforcing teaching and providing a wide variety of transferable skills. A final synoptic exam encourages the development of an integrated view of the subject. During the year you will make several site visits to establishments involved in toxicological research and development. International experts from outside the university make a substantial contribution to the taught modules and the material covered is driven by the needs of industry for toxicology training.
Adam Jennings, MSc in Toxicology Graduate
"I found the structure of the course was excellent, and the introductory module really built on and extended my basic biochemical knowledge, and got me thinking like a toxicologist!"
Module 1: Metabolism and Mechanisms of Toxicity
This module describes the disposition of foreign compounds within the body of living organisms. It covers the methods used to study xenobiotic metabolism – their absorption, distribution and excretion and includes the application of molecular biology techniques to study drug metabolism of pharmacogenetics. The major metabolism pathways are discussed including phase 1, 2 and 3 reactions. The effect of species, age, sex and nutrition on these reactions is also discussed. Aspects of enzyme kinetics and pharmacokinetics are covered as are the role of receptors and cell signalling pathways. The cellular basis of cell toxicity and death are also introduced and discussed with the use of examples (e.g. reactive oxygen species). Other aspects covered include an introduction to the role of drug metabolism in the drug development process and an introduction to safety pharmacology. In addition there is a series of lectures introducing clinical toxicology where the effects of poisoning with a range of pharmaceutical drugs are discussed in detail along with aspects of their clinical management; this is taught by clinical staff from City Road Hospital.
Module 2: Forensic Clinical and Occupational Toxicology
This module introduces students to occupational and forensic toxicology (e.g. drugs of abuse) and further develops the clinical aspects of toxicology introduced in Metabolism and Mechanisms of Toxicity. Aspects of chemical poisoning and management are discussed with the use of occupationally and environmentally relevant chemicals (e.g. metals, pesticides, insecticides). Features of environmental toxicology and occupational health are also covered with specific examples of occupational carcinogens as are the role of biological monitoring and epidemiology studies and how these data are used to set effective exposure limits.
Other specialist examples such as respiratory sensitizers, immunotoxicity and skin toxicity are also reviewed. An overview of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis is also discussed including aspects of cell cycle control, regulation of gap junctions and the roles of cell signalling and epigenetics.
Module 3: Assessing Toxic Potential
This module describes the methodology for testing chemicals for toxic potential using both in vitro and in vivo techniques as well as high-throughput test systems such as cDNA microarrays, proteomics, metabolomics and transgenic animal technologies. Alternative approaches such as in silico testing are also discussed as is the limit of current in vitro approaches and the need for in vivo studies. Students will learn how to detect acute and chronic toxicity in animal studies with emphasis being placed on the pathological responses to toxic substances in different key organ systems (e.g. liver/kidney/heart/lung). They will be taught how to recognise acute and chronic inflammation, necrosis, neoplasia, hypertrophy and other cellular changes as demonstrated by histology. The choice of experimental species to demonstrate general and reproductive toxicity is also considered.
Stanley Aniagu, MSc in Toxicology graduate
"It's a well thought out, all-embracing programme which prepares the student for a fulfilling career in any aspect of Toxicology. Hence an 'essential tool kit' for prospective practitioners in the field."
Module 4: Regulatory Science and Toxicology for the 21st Century
This module focuses on big data-driven science in environmental and toxicological genomics. This module will review current regulatory toxicological and risk assessment practices using the US National Research Council (NRC) publication “Toxicity-testing for the 21st Century” and the UK/EU policy guidelines as points of reference to discuss the proposed changes that incorporate 21st Century innovations in context of their scientific underpinnings, the promises they offer and challenges they present. It will draw from the fields of molecular biology, genomics, genetics, evolutionary biology, computational biology, toxicology, and risk assessment –though these are not prerequisites for enrolment. Theory and concepts will be highlighted by real world applications drawn from the scientific literature. By involving instructions from industry, government agency and NGO scientists, it means to offers a variety of dynamically evolving career paths to students.
This module is aimed at improving the communication, data handling, team working, essay and report writing, presentation and laboratory skills of students and is embedded throughout the other modules of the MSc Toxicology programme (5 credits per module). Students are taught to develop their communication and presentation skills which they develop independently by undertaking exercises in literature searching/information retrieval and communication of their findings in written reports. Students also learn how to design experiments and to apply statistical analysis to toxicological data. There are also more specialised IT skills training involving structure activity relationshipsand metabolism prediction, pharmacokinetics computer simulations as well as data handling workshops and practical classes.
This is a module based on student-centred learning. Students are given time to work through all the topics covered in earlier modules on their own and to raise any areas of concern with the members of staff responsible, who give additional guidance as necessary.
JR Foster PhD, FRCPath, FIATP, (Hon)FBTS, Emeritus Professor & Senior Consultant Pathologist
"The course provides the ideal background for anyone intending to undertake a career in toxicology, and the close industrial contacts which the university maintains, ensures that the best graduates are readily employable with the best companies"
This takes place over 12 weeks from May to August and is an opportunity for the student to select a research topic from their area of interest. Projects can be based in the University, a research institute, a hospital, an environmental agency or in industry in this country or overseas. They can be laboratory based, computer based or literature/survey based. So a wide variety of exciting opportunities are available but in all cases students will investigate a toxicological problem in depth and write a detailed report of their findings for submission.
Collaborating organisations have included:
- Cancer Research Campaign laboratories
- the Regional Toxicology Unit
- the Health Protection Agency
- the MRC Toxicology Unit
- the MRC Institute for Environment and Health
- the National Center for Toxicological research, Jefferson, USA.
There is an industry sponsored prize awarded annually for the best project dissertation
Recent project titles offered to MSc Toxicology students
- Nanotoxicology Assessment of Carbon Based Nanomaterials in Cell Culture Models
- Investigation of whether cell stress induces nuclear translation
- Understanding the links between translation and transcription
- Does x-ray damaged DNA persist in tissues long after their initial irradiation?
- The radiation-induced DNA damage response in the eye lens
- Is the ApcMin/+ mouse a model for radiation-induced acute myeloid leukaemia?
- Understanding regulation of apoptosis-induced cell proliferation in cancer and tissue regeneration models
- Endocrine disruptors: over-hyped or serious risk to human health?
- Mechanisms of Ethanol-Induced Carcinogenicity
- Do supramolecular iron cylinders inhibit DNA repair?
- Characterisation of nitroreductase - an enzyme proposed for use in cancer gene therapy
- The cellular role(s) of the enzymes NQO1 (cytosolic NAD(P)H: quinone acceptor oxidoreductase 1) and NQO2 (NRH: quinone oxidoreductase 2)
- Deciphering the anti-leukaemic actions of VBaP against acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) cells
- Determining whether AKR1C3 selective inhibitors can sensitise tumour cells to chemotheraphy
- Development of novel dual Kappa Lambda staining for diagnostic use
- Wavelength dependence of responses in human skin cells exposed to UVA and UVB radiation
- Exploring the effects of carbon-based drug delivery systems on the signalling pathways of cancer cells
- Can SERCA overexpression be cyto-protective against cell toxicity
- Role of epigenetic mechanisms in regulating tissue-specific transcriptional responses to stressors in Daphnia magna
- An assessment of the health effects from the addition of flouride to drinking water
- Development of high throughput electroencephalogram (EEG) recording from zebrafish larvae for drug screening
- Development of a genetically sensitized Drosophila model for drug delivery for neurotoxicity testing and treatment of neurodegeneration
- Toxicity of novel ferrocene analogues
- Bio-informatic analysis of a new dataset to explore the ways in which human cells resist chemotherapeutic toxins
- Overcoming the natural resistance of human cells to chemotherapeutic drugs with novel inhibitor combinations
- Miniaturisation and automation of Daphnia magna ecotoxicity testing: Towards higher throughput biology to facilitate the hazard assessment of chemicals under REACH
- The validation of computational models and tools for predictive toxicology
- Mechanisms of Flexibility in Ligand Binding to I-FABP
- Resurrection ecology as a servant in in a climate change prediction: dissolved organic carbon as a real threat in changing lake ecosystems.
- Transgenerational epigenetic effects of food quality in a twin model organism
- Male formation in clonal organisms - is the epigenetic key player?
- Epigenetic effects of vitamin B12 in clones