Learn how cells and DNA determine the structure and function of the human body and get a foundation for a career in the healthcare or medical professions.
Are you interested in learning more about living things, or perhaps beginning to train for a career in the healthcare or medical professions? This course will help you understand the structure and function of the human body at the level of your tiniest living components—your cells. You'll also learn about DNA—what it is, what it does, and even a little bit about how forensic scientists use it to solve crimes. The knowledge you'll gain from this course is essential to understanding the fundamental causes of human disease, and will prepare you for more advanced courses in human anatomy and physiology.
As you explore each topic, you'll have lots of opportunities to deepen your understanding and relate what you're learning to your own life. When things get complicated, you'll have the guidance you need, so you won't get overwhelmed by the details. By the end of the course, you'll have a better appreciation of the fundamental characteristics of living things as well as a solid foundation in the biology of human beings and the biological and medical sciences.
- This course can be taken on either a PC or Mac.
- PC: Windows XP or later.
- Mac: OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 or later.
- Browser: The latest version of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are preferred. Microsoft Edge and Safari are also compatible.
- Adobe Flash Player. Click here to download the Flash Player.
- Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click here to download the Acrobat Reader.
- Software must be installed and fully operational before the course begins.
- Email capabilities and access to a personal email account.
There are no prerequisites to take this course.
Instructional Material Requirements:
The instructional materials required for this course are included in enrollment and will be available online.Gain a solid foundation for a career in healthcare or medicine with an understanding of biology. This course will help you learn how cells and DNA determine the structure and function of the human body which is essential to understanding the fundamental causes of human disease.
What Is Life?
In your first lesson, you'll get an introduction to the smallest living part of you: the cell. You'll discover the properties of life that you and your cells both have, and you'll see how cells combine to form the tissues and organs that make up your body. The lesson will also introduce the non-living components that make up cells, including molecules and atoms. Then you'll see how scientists sum up the most important facts about cells in cell theory. By the end of this lesson, you'll know why cells are the smallest units of life, and you'll understand how they make up all living things, including your body.
A Tour of Your Cells
In this lesson, you'll take an in-depth look at your cells and how they function. You'll consider why all life on Earth is based on cells. You'll take a look at the structures found in eukaryotic cells—the type of cells shared by you, other animals, plants, mushrooms, and seaweed—and explore how each structure contributes to the life of the cell as a whole. By the end of this lesson, you'll have a better understanding of how your cells work.
What Makes Matter?
In Lesson 3, you'll discover the fundamental units of matter that make up the structure of every organism and the Earth itself. You'll explore the structure of atoms and learn about the attractions that form between atoms to create molecules. You'll also take a peek at the unique nature of the water molecules that cover 70% of the Earth's surface and flow within every living thing. By the end of this lesson, you'll have a gained a foundation in simple chemistry that will help you better understand symbols like H2O and CO2. You'll also have a basis for understanding more complicated molecules like carbohydrates, proteins, and DNA.
You Are What You Eat
In this lesson, you'll take a good look at the molecules that make up most of your body. You'll examine the structure of carbohydrates, lipids (fats and related molecules) and proteins, and learn exactly why your body needs all three of these types of molecules. By the end of this lesson, you'll have a better understanding of the value of carbohydrates, the difference between dangerous saturated fats and healthy unsaturated oils, and why you should choose lean protein to get your essential amino acids.
To Protect and Serve: The Plasma Membrane
In Lesson 5, you'll explore the structure and function of one of the cell's most crucial parts: the plasma membrane. All life depends on this very important boundary between a cell and its environment! You'll start by examining the membrane's components and unique properties, which are perfectly suited to protecting the health and well-being of the cell. Then you'll take a look at the important jobs the membrane does for your cells, including screening materials, moving stuff in and out of the cell, and receiving messages. Finally, you'll see how materials cross the plasma membrane and why that's important to normal health. Along the way, you'll gain a better understanding of blood types, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis.
Getting the Job Done With Enzymes
In this lesson, you'll learn all about enzymes: what they are, what they do, and why they're important to cells and human health. You'll also get an introduction to chemical reactions and some fundamentals of human metabolism. By the end of this lesson, you'll know why you need vitamins and minerals in your diet. You'll also discover how humans can manipulate enzymes, targeting them in order to benefit or harm human health.
Getting Energized From Cellular Respiration
In this lesson, you'll explore one of the most important parts of your metabolism: cellular respiration. Cellular respiration is the process that your cells use to get the energy they need to survive. You'll learn the fundamental laws that govern all energy exchanges, whether your cells or man-made machines perform them. By the end of this lesson, you'll understand the most important events that occur during cellular respiration, and you'll have new insights into why you breathe and why you sweat.
DNA: The Molecule of Life
In Lesson 8, you'll look at the most important molecule of life: DNA. You'll see how the genetic blueprints in DNA determine all of your unique traits. You'll also explore DNA's structure and learn about its powerful chemical code. By the end of the lesson, you'll know what the letters A, T, G, and C mean to biologists, and you'll have a better understanding of the importance of stem cells in medical research.
How Do Cells Grow and Reproduce?
In Lesson 9, you'll explore how cells divide to make new cells for growth, repair, and sexual reproduction. You'll see how cells make exact copies of themselves during mitosis in order to grow or repair damage (such as a paper cut). The lesson will walk you through the process of mitosis to show you how cells get exactly the right number and types of chromosomes. Then you'll see how a special kind of cell division called meiosis is necessary to sexual reproduction and the human life cycle.
Principles of Inheritance
In Lesson 10, you'll find out how parents pass traits to their offspring. You'll explore how the genetic information from both parents interacts to determine which traits appear in each generation. By the end of this lesson, you'll have a better understanding of why people in families look like each other and why there is so much diversity in human traits like skin and eye color. You'll also know more about the inheritance of some genetic diseases.
In this lesson, you'll look at how biologists are delving into the mysteries of life by reading and manipulating the genetic code. You'll take a peek at some of the new DNA technology that's helping scientists test for and treat genetic diseases, engineer organisms, and solve crimes. You'll explore some of the issues this technology presents. By the end of this lesson, you'll have a better understanding of genetic testing, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and how DNA is used in forensic science.
In the final lesson of the course, you'll investigate how normal cells turn into cancer cells. You'll look at the changes that occur in cells as the disease progresses. You'll also explore how cancer treatments work and find out what lifestyle choices you can make to lower your cancer risks. By the end of this lesson, you'll have a better understanding of the biology behind cancer, as well as the risks, prevention strategies, and treatments for this disease.
René Fester Kratz graduated from the University of Washington with a Ph.D. in Botany. For the past 15 years, she's been teaching biology to a wide variety of students whose interests range from curiosity about the natural world to a desire to work in the healthcare professions. René's strong interest in science literacy motivated her to help develop science classes for future teachers and to write several science books aimed at the general public, including Biology for Dummies and Molecular and Cell Biology for Dummies. In both her teaching and her writing, René emphasizes central ideas and keeps jargon to a minimum.