Skip to Content

More Than Just a Cough: Exploring the Role of the Cytoskeleton in Fertility

Carly N. Jordan
Department of Biological Sciences
The George Washington University


This interrupted case study explores the role of cytoskeletal structures on human health, specifically on respiratory function, sperm motility, and female fertility. It follows the story of a couple struggling to conceive a child and the doctors working to help them. Students are presented with clinical histories, narrative elements, documentary-style videos, and microscopic evidence in order to determine the cause of the couple's infertility. Along the way, they learn about the three types of cytoskeletal elements and the roles these play in cellular biology and human physiology. The use of videos makes it suitable for the "flipped classroom," allowing students to prepare outside the classroom for the case study, which they then complete in class. An original video by the author on the structure and function of microtubules, microfilaments, and intermediate filaments is included. The case was developed for an introductory level general biology course and could be delivered during a unit on the cell structure and function. The case could also be used in a cell biology course.


  • Compare and contrast the structure and function of cytoskeletal elements.
  • Describe the structure and function of cilia and flagella.
  • Explain the role that cilia and flagella play in human respiratory and reproductive health.


Cytoskeleton; microtubules; microfilaments; intermediate filaments; cilia; reproduction; infertility; fertilization; Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia; PCD

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division



Type Methods

Analysis (Issues), Directed, Flipped, Interrupted



Subject Headings

Anatomy Biology (General) Cell Biology

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

Case teaching notes are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.

Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

Answer Key

Answer keys for the cases in our collection are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.


The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • Cytoskeleton Structure and Function
    This video explores the three different types of cytoskeletal structures—microtubules, microfilaments, and intermediate filaments—and the roles they play in cellular biology and human physiology. Running time: 9:16 min. Created by Carly Jordan for the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, 2015.
  • Fertilization
    This video provides a cellular-scale perspective of human fertilization as it follows the sperm’s journey to reach and fertilize the egg. Running time: 5:40 min. Created by Thomas Brown, 2012.