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Kirsten L. Hokeness
Science and Technology Department
Bryant University
Host-Pathogen Interactions: A Magnificent Battle in an Evolutionary Arms Race

This case study introduces students to the complex field of immunology and the wide variety of host-pathogen interactions that drive evolutionary change.  The case begins with a basic overview of the phases of the immune response and how each contributes to host defense against an invading pathogen.  In order to delve deeper into each phase, students explore the metaphor of a battle in which a host and pathogen are locked in combat in order to understand the individual components of the immune response.  Once students successfully understand how the immune system works in general, they are then asked to think creatively about how a pathogen that wants to survive could evolve to evade the immune response, and to find concrete examples in the literature.  The overall goal is for students to gain a deeper understanding of the immune response and how host-pathogen interactions drive coevolution of both host immune components and the pathogen itself. The case was originally designed for an introductory biology course, but can easily be adapted for use in a variety of different courses and levels.

The Case of the Malfunctioning Neuron: When Cellular Processes Go Wrong

This flipped case study tells the story of Joyce, a biology student who notices the development of some unusual symptoms (foot slapping and slurred speech) in her mother. In an effort to understand the cause, Joyce views a documentary-style trigger video (created by the case author) that suggests to Joyce that her mom may in fact have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. The rest of the case walks Joyce through understanding how normal neurons compare to neurons in ALS patients and how that might affect muscle function. The case explores the link between genes, particularly SOD-1, to the formation of malformed proteins and its potential role in the development of ALS. The case concludes with a discussion of drug development and highlights the timeline and costs associated with drug discovery as Joyce becomes concerned about the lack of drugs in the pipeline for ALS, which her mother is ultimately diagnosed with. The case is appropriate for a number of classes including general biology, biotechnology, anatomy and physiology, upper level-cell biology, or any human health and disease-related course.