Assignment Overview

In the following scenario, you will play the role of a medical examiner and analyze a case study based on scientific data.

You’re working at the medical examiner’s office at Pima County Hospital. It has been a slow day, with only one homicide and a dead squirrel that you checked for rabies. The squirrel was cleared for rabies and you get ready to head home. Just as you’re ready to leave, you get a call from the front desk. “We’ve got a kid you’ll want to look at right away, it looks suspicious.”

Performing autopsies on kids is your least favorite part of your job, but you realize you are needed to solve medical mysteries, and it looks like you’ve got one here.

You receive the hospital report and take note of the child’s last hours:

At 9 AM, the child’s mother returns from the store to find the little girl vomiting, not feeling well, and sleepy. The mother put her down to nap. Ten minutes later, she noticed that the child’s breathing became irregular and slow. She tried to wake her daughter, but was not able to do so. The child became comatose. At noon, the child was admitted to the hospital, with no heartbeat or spontaneous breathing.

police report states the following:

The mother later noticed that a few of her anti-seizure pills were missing. The label indicates that the main ingredient is Amytal Sodium.

Autopsy Report

  • The child died within two hours of first vomiting.
  • Immediate cause of death was hypoxia (lack of oxygen).
  • Tissue sections from the kidneys, lungs, thymus, and heart show massive cell death.
  • Staining with cellular dyes indicates that the mitochondria within the affected tissues were damaged.

Case Assignment

For your Case Assignment, discuss your findings in a report based on the following questions:

  1. Define these terms: substrate, enzyme, ATP, and describe why they are important in cellular respiration.
  2. What do these components do, generally speaking, in cellular respiration?  Would the reaction occur if they were not present? Why or why not?
  3. Based on the autopsy and police reports and recalling your knowledge of cellular organelles, what general functions of the cell did the medication probably affect?
  4. Which specific steps in the process of cellular respiration were likely affected by the medication?

Using a new chromatographic technology, you are able to determine the levels of various subcellular components in the heart cells of the child. The results are presented below:

Metabolite Autopsy Finding Normal Levels
Glucose 105 μmol 100 μmol
Pyruvate 20 μmol 25 μmol
NAD+ 10 μmol 75 μmol
NADH 350 μmol 50 μmol
  1. Given this new information, what specific cellular process do you think was affected by the medication?
  2. Do you think performing CPR on the child or giving her oxygen could have saved her? Why or why not?
  3. Research one other inhibitor of cellular respiration besides Amytal Sodium presented in the case study above. Explain at the cellular level how it affects cellular respiration (which cycle, steps, processes and/or enzymes are involved) and why it is lethal.

Assignment Expectations

For this assignment, address questions 1-7 above in an essay-type format. Use APA formatting and include a References section that lists any sources you used. For any additional research you are required to do to complete your assignment, please use scholarly references such as a peer-reviewed journal articles or government-sponsored and university-sponsored websites. As you read through your sources, take notes and then write your paper in your own words, describing what you have learned from your research. Direct quotes should be limited and must be designated by quotation marks. Paraphrased ideas must give credit to the original author, for example (Murray, 2014).

References/Citations MUST be accessible online – preferably references given or scholarly.


Given References:

How chemical reactions are catalyzed by enzymes:

Farabee, MJ (2010) Reaction and Enzymes. Accessed February 12, 2012, at: http://www2.estrellamountain.edu/faculty/farabee/BIOBK/biobookenzym.html

Photosynthesis and the structure of chloroplasts:

Farabee, MJ (2010) Photosynthesis. Accessed February 12, 2012: http://www2.estrellamountain.edu/faculty/farabee/BIOBK/BioBookPS.html


Photosynthesis (building sugars from the environment – plants/photosynthetic organisms/producers) http://www.phschool.com/science/biology_place/biocoach/photosynth/intro.html

Cellular respiration and the structure of mitochondria:

Kimball, John. (2011) Cellular Respiration. Accessed February 12, 2012. http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/C/CellularRespiration.html

Videos cellular respiration:

Glycolysis  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTv9y5dol-A

The Krebs Cycle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncEHa-ZwX3M

Electron Transport Chain (Phosphorylation)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqF5JOXi_K8


Cellular Respiration (utilizing sugars – most living organisms/aerobic organisms/consumers) http://www.phschool.com/science/biology_place/biocoach/cellresp/intro.html

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