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Metals and Life (MAL)


Admission requirements

BSc Chemistry or BSc Life Science and Technology


for example the transmission of action potential along membranes or for controlling reactive oxygen species in cells, while metal imbalance is involved in many diseases. The course describes first the binding of metal ions to biomolecules, how different metal ions differentiate from each other, and how different biomolecules and proteins bind to different metal ions. The second part of the course describes two families of proteins: those based on zinc ions, and those involved in the production, transport, and control of dioxygen. The specific role of the metal in these different proteins is discussed. A third part of the course studies how metals are absorbed by living cells and organisms, and transported to where they are needed. Then, the role of metal imbalance in disease is discussed, as well as heavy metal pollution. Finally, the last part of the course is dedicated to the inorganic pharmacopeia and the use of artificial metal-based compounds for medicine, looking at both imaging and therapy.
At the end of the course, students:

  • will have knowledge of fundamental principles of metal binding by biomolecules and in particular proteins

  • will be able to differentiate between the different role of metal ions in metalloproteins: structural, catalytic (redox active), and catalytic (non redox-active)

  • will have knowledge of the fundamental principles for uptake, transport, and excretion of metal ions

  • will have knowledge of the fundamental roles of metal ions in health and disease

  • will become conscious of the environmental consequences of heavy metals pollution and on the systems currently existing for putting chemicals on the market

  • will have an overview of the application of metal-based compounds in chemical biology and medicinal chemistry

  • will be introduced to the role of radionucleides in medicinal chemistry

  • will be able to distinguish between metal-containing compounds for imaging and metal-containing compounds for therapy

  • can digest and present a summary of 95% of the scientific articles on bioinorganic chemistry

Mode of instruction

Lectures (10 sessions), exercises (4 sessions), movie project (1 session), and literature study (home work)




Schedule information can be found on the website of the programmes.


The course is based on the slides presented during the courses and exercises corrected together. The following book is recommended:
Eleanor Crabb, (2009) Metal and life, The Open University RSC Publishing (ASIN: B0068GBYAK).


Written examination (80%) and literature study (20%)

Contact information

Dr. Sylvestre Bonnet


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the “Prospective students website”: for information on how to apply.
All students should register on Blackboard and register to the course.