The University of Southampton

UOSM2031 Engineering Replacement Body Parts

Module Overview

Do you want to find out how stem cells are being used to help treat disease and allow us to live better, for longer? And are you interested in the controversy surrounding them? Do you want to find out what tissue engineering is, and how scientists are building replacement organs in the lab? Are you fascinated by how engineering can help those who have lost limbs walk, and allow those who are deaf to hear again? And also how these same technologies may lead to ethical and legal questions concerning their correct use in society? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you will enjoy learning about this fascinating subject in this innovative module. No prerequisite knowledge is necessary, so don't be daunted by the science, engineering, ethics or legal aspects of this module. The module explores the potential of stem cells, engineered tissues and implanted devices in medicine, and how these technological advances may have an impact on law and ethics of our societies. The module will use a number of learning methods, including traditional lectures, interactive seminars, facilitated group discussion, a mock 'trial', a field trip to a medical device manufacturer, laboratory masterclasses, and design project work. During the module, you will both learn about the science underlying the new technologies in question, and you will be encouraged to discuss the impact of these emerging technologies on our societies in the future. Particular emphasis will be placed on the ethics of some of the technologies and how the use can be encouraged and their misuse prevented. This is an interdisciplinary module.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To enable the students to appreciate and understand the breath of research that is currently being undertaken in the field of biomedical engineering, and to be able to critically assess the impacts (both positive and negative) that such research may have on society.

Learning Outcomes

Disciplinary Specific Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Define the various types of stem cells and their potential in medicine, explain and analyse how research is developing into clinical applications
  • List and compare biomaterials and tissue engineered constructs, and differentiate between those in research and development and those in clinical use
  • Explain how surgeons use prostheses and biomedical implants and analyse and describe contextually their relative strengths and weaknesses
  • Compare and contrast the current hearing assistance devices with the new technology currently in development and under trial, and debate the social obstacles to encouraging cochlear implant use
  • Evaluate current devices for biosensing in humans, and give examples of measurement which can be made accurately and those that cannot
  • Debate and argue the case for the use of stem cells in medicine
  • Analyse, discuss and debate the ethical repercussions of new technologies used in society both currently and in the near (10-20 years) future


The syllabus will contain elements related to the science and ethics of replacing organs or tissues that are lost due to disease. Each of the 10 weeks will comprise an interactive 1 hour lecture and a 2 hour facilitated session (the final two weeks will be for private study). Each week will be organised under a different theme. These will include: • Stem cells • Tissue Engineering • Biomedical Prostheses • Biosensors • Ethics and Law of stem cells and medical devices • Motion and Mechanics • Bioengineering hearing You will learn: • how new stem cell technologies - embryonic and adult - are being developed to cure disease (STEM). • how cells and materials are being combined together to create replacement tissues and organs (TISSENG). • how engineered, 'intelligent' materials are being developed to reproduce or replace body function (PROSTHESES). • how electronic devices are interfacing with our nervous systems to help us sense and respond to our environment (BIONICS). • how such developments in technology will impact on the law and the ethics of our societies (ETHICS). Week 1: What does it take to engineering a human being? • A synopsis of the module, team building activities and an introduction to the ‘tools’ of the module. Week 2: Stem cells: From monstrous tumours to a cure for all ills • An introduction to the use of stem cells in medicine. Week 3: Tissue engineering: Building with cells and materials • How engineers use new materials, and incorporate cells to ‘build’ new tissues and organs. Week 4: Hybrids and clones: the ethics of stem cell science • An introduction to the ethics of stem cell science and new prosthetics. Week 5: From Gran to Iron Man: prostheses today and in the future • In introduction to the prostheses that are used today medically, and how researchers are developing new prosthesis that may not only help mitigate disease and injury, but might make humans better at achieving tasks. The use and potential misuse of such technologies will be discussed. Week 6: Plenary lecture by a device manufacturer and an overview from a surgeon. Week 7: Motion and mechanics: rehabilitation in the ill and injured • How rehabilitation is being used in the clinic to help people get better. How technologies such as motion capture help athletes avoid or recover from injury. Week 8: Bioengineering better hearing: Cochlear implants and the nervous system • An introduction to devices that transmit sound information to our brains, and a discussion of how this impacts the life of deaf or partially deaf people. Week 9: Biosensing health • A week exploring engineering technologies that are enabling people to understand how healthy they are by tracking. Week 10: For good or for evil: The legal and moral framework of bioengineering in society.

Special Features

This is a curriculum innovation module. Any fieldtrip will make full consideration of any disabilities and plan accordingly, with reference to the Quality Handbook, ‘Developing Inclusive Practices’ section, found at

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

As described above, weeks will generally consist of a one hour plenary lecture, facilitated small group work with trigger material, laboratory visits, hands on practical classes and an away day. The 1 hour lecturer will be given by a prominent academic with an enthusiasm for conveying their research to students, who may not have a specialist knowledge of the field. The 2 hour facilitated session will include a diverse range of activities, including summative assessment and group work with the lecturer(s) or postgraduate and postdoctoral staff from each grouping taking part. Trigger material will be provided to encourage debate and resources such as laboratory materials (tissue engineering scaffolds and other materials, cell culture containers, prostheses etc) as well as texts may be provided to allow the students to do their own facilitated research. The module will include lab visits, with facilitated sessions on Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, Motion Capture and Biomedical Prostheses. One tutorial will take the form of a mock trial, illustrating the ethic concepts involved with, for instance, the use of stem cells. Finally, one of these tutorials will be filled by a visit of a medical device company to the university. All plenary lectures on the course use Panopto. This technology enables lecture capture and will allow students to review a lecture at a later time by accessing it on the University intranet (via Blackboard). Panopto is managed by the iSolutions at the university and is available on many university machines by installation of some simple software. The technology is very simple to use (please see for detailed information). However, its use requires that all lecturers are happy to be captured.

Wider reading or practice20
Follow-up work20
Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Practical classes and workshops4
Completion of assessment task40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Hansson. (2005). Implant ethics, 31:519-525. 

Blackboard. Students will be encouraged to read articles and texts related to ethics in their area of interest so a wide range of resource suggestions will be available and regularly updated on Blackboard

The Proteus Effect: Stem Cells and Their Promise for Medicine.

Solter D. (2006). From teratocarcinomas to embryonic stem cells and beyond: a history of embryonic stem cell research, 7:319-327. 

Stem cells for Dummies.


Assessment Strategy



MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 40%
Exercise 30%
Group presentation 30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 40%
Presentation marks carried forward 30%
Submitted blog article 30%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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