Teaching the extracellular matrix and introducing online databases within a multidisciplinary course with i-cell-MATRIX

A student-centered approach

Authors

  • João Carlos Sousa,

    1. Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS), School of Health Sciences, University of Minho, Campus Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Manuel João Costa,

    1. Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS), School of Health Sciences, University of Minho, Campus Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Joana Almeida Palha

    Corresponding author
    1. Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS), School of Health Sciences, University of Minho, Campus Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal
    • Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS), School of Health Sciences, University of Minho, Campus Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal
    Search for more papers by this author
    • Tel.: 351-253-604817; Fax: 351-253-604809.


Abstract

The biochemistry and molecular biology of the extracellular matrix (ECM) is difficult to convey to students in a classroom setting in ways that capture their interest. The understanding of the matrix's roles in physiological and pathological conditions study will presumably be hampered by insufficient knowledge of its molecular structure. Internet-available resources can bridge the division between the molecular details and ECM's biological properties and associated processes. This article presents an approach to teach the ECM developed for first year medical undergraduates who, working in teams: (i) Explore a specific molecular component of the matrix, (ii) identify a disease in which the component is implicated, (iii) investigate how the component's structure/function contributes to ECM' supramolecular organization in physiological and in pathological conditions, and (iv) share their findings with colleagues. The approach—designated i-cell-MATRIX—is focused on the contribution of individual components to the overall organization and biological functions of the ECM. i-cell-MATRIX is student centered and uses 5 hours of class time. Summary of results and take home message: A “1-minute paper” has been used to gather student feedback on the impact of i-cell-MATRIX. Qualitative analysis of student feedback gathered in three consecutive years revealed that students appreciate the approach's reliance on self-directed learning, the interactivity embedded and the demand for deeper insights on the ECM. Learning how to use internet biomedical resources is another positive outcome. Ninety percent of students recommend the activity for subsequent years. i-cell-MATRIX is adaptable by other medical schools which may be looking for an approach that achieves higher student engagement with the ECM.

Ancillary