Metals in Biology and Medicine


At the end of the curricular unit the students should have acquire the following skills:

•           Acquire the main fundaments about the function of metal ions in biological systems;

•           Be able to analyze a structure and function of biomolecules containing metals;

•           Be able to discuss why the homeostasis of trace elements is essential;

•           Identify the spectroscopic techniques appropriate to investigate a metalloprotein or metal complex;

•           Develop the ability to collect and interpret scientific data;

•           Integrate and apply multidisciplinary knowledge in spectroscopy, enzyme kinetics, biochemistry, structure biology and bioinorganic;

•           Be able to work in a team;

•           Develop the ability to communicate and discuss results with specialist and non-specialists, using the appropriate scientific language;

•           Demonstrate critical spirit and show initiative;

•           Start using English as the scientific international language.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Carlos Lodeiro Espino, Sofia Rocha Pauleta


Weekly - 4

Total - 56

Teaching language



Available soon


Trace Element Medicine and Chelation Therapy, RSC David M. Taylor, David, R. Williams, 1995.

Medicinal Inorganic Chemistry, J. Sessler, S. Lippard, et al. ACS Symposium Series, 2005.

Essentials in Inorganic Chemistry. For students of Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Medicinal Chemistry. Katja A. Stronhfeldt, Wiley, 2015.

Ligand Design in Medicinal Inorganic Chemistry, Tim Storr Editor, Wiley, 2014.

Metals in Medicine, Kames C. Dabrowiak, Inorganic Chemistry Wiley TextBook Series, Wiley, 2nd Ed. 2017.

Biological Inorganic Chemistry – Structure and reactivity. Ed. Bertini, Gray, Stiefel, Valentine. 2007. University Science Books, USA.

Metals in Medicine, J.C. Dabrowiak, 2009, Wiley.

Teaching method

Classroom teaching with theoretical classes, theoretical exercises, and seminars on clinical cases. Theoretical classes follow the defined program and are classes of voluntary attendance. Theoretical exercises and seminars are tutored classes, guided by a teacher, with compulsory attendance, designed to apply the concepts taught through the presentation and discussion of scientific articles, resolution of clinical exercises. The seminars on practical cases are presented in groups of two students (20 min of oral presentation in English, followed by 10 min of discussion).

Evaluation method

The requirements to be approved are:
1) Continuous assessment

- Mandatory attendance of 2/3 of TP classes. All seminars.

- Participation in class: 10%;

- Classification in the seminar (2 seminar) with average of 9.5 or more; with a weighting of 30% in the final classification; classification below 9.5 in this component does not confer frequency;

- 1 Individual Mini-monography: 20% (min 10 pages, max 15, excluinding title page, index, abstract and reference list)

- 2 theoretical tests, arithmetic average with a weighting of 40% (9.5 or higher in the average of the two frequencies).

2) Final exam
- Exam with the theoretical component, with a grade of 9.5 or higher; with a weighting of 50% in the final classification;

- Classification in the seminar (2 seminar) with average of 9.5 or more; with a weighting of 30% in the final classification;

- 1 Mini monography individual: 20% (min 10 pages, max 15, excluinding title page, index, abstract and reference list).

Subject matter

1. Metal ions. Their bioavailability and abundance.

2. Revision of the coordination chemistry o some of the essential and toxic metals.

3. Homeostasis of metal ions: transport systems, absorption and storage. Distribution of the trace metals in the human body.

4. Role of the metal ions in diseases.

5. Applications of metal in medicine: (i) metallic cations, complexes, nanoparticles, and chemical speciation; (ii) Chelation, ligands and, drugs and therapies; (iii) agents containing metals.

6. Function of metal ions, such as (i) oxygen transport, (ii) reaction and metabolism of molecular oxygen; (iii) function of nitrogenase; (iv) detoxification of reactive oxygen species; (v) enzyme catalysis of metal centers containing zinc, copper, molybdenum, and nickel.

7. Interactions of metal ions with DNA and RNA.

8. Application of metal ions and of bioinorganic to biotechnology, biocatalysis, environmental and food engineering.


Programs where the course is taught: