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Tom L. Haffie
Department of Biology
Western University
New Ways to Breathe: Cystic Fibrosis and Gene Therapy

This case study follows a young cystic fibrosis (CF) patient named Lucas. Through Lucas's story and interactions between his parents and pediatrician, students learn about the scientific background and basis of CF. By reviewing email correspondence between Lucas's parents and various doctors, students gain an overview of CF research. CF has become a model disease in certain undergraduate biology classrooms due to its relatively clear mechanism and genetic basis. This case asks students to come up with their own ideas to improve on an existing line of research - gene therapy - in treating CF. During the process, students will gain a better appreciation of the innovative nature of science and develop research skills such as finding, understanding and analyzing primary literature. The activity was originally designed for first- and second-year students as part of an extracurricular case competition, but may be used for any undergraduate biology level. The case assumes basic (high school level) knowledge of genetics, biochemistry, cell biology and physiology.

The Challenge of Epilepsy 

This case study was originally developed for undergraduate science students as part of an extracurricular competition, but it could also be delivered as a directed case. Accordingly two versions of the activity are included. Each version requires students to read the same story of a young boy who has been diagnosed with a form of epilepsy that does not respond to currently available medication. Through conversations with various clinicians and researchers, the boy's parents find out more about epilepsy in its clinical, social and scientific contexts. Version A of the challenge requires considerable creativity and independence as students prepare a grant proposal for a research idea to study epilepsy. Version B can be used by instructors who wish to run a more traditional directed case in which a dramatic scenario is accompanied by a set of questions that students answer in groups and discuss in class. Although the case topic is based in neuroscience, the material is accessible to general science students; the narrative provides sufficient background information without formal instruction.