• The Aspiring Medics

Oxbridge Medicine Academic Questions




  • Consider things that we class as drugs e.g. paracetamol and what we don't class as drugs e.g. water

  • Drugs don't have to necessarily have to be external to the body e.g. insulin injections are classed drugs but insulin is hormone made naturally by the body

  • All 'drugs' seem to have something in common - they interact with major biological molecules in the body

  • Examples to illustrate would be good: - Proteins: enzyme inhibitors such as aspirin - DNA: chemotherapy drugs e.g. cisplatin

  • Typically have a therapeutic effect by affecting a physiological state


  • Immediate changes - reduction in blood volume

  • How would the body respond to this?

  • Reasonable to suggest that it has to make sure that important organs are still perfused properly and it would prioritise conserving water

  • Downstream effects - increase in heart rate, vasoconstriction to maintain blood pressure

  • Could suggest hormones responsible for this such as adrenaline

  • To conserve water the blood flow to the kidney would be reduced

  • Increase in feeling of thirst


  • SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus which translates its RNA into proteins upon infecting cells while also replicating its RNA

  • mRNA in the vaccine contains code for the spike protein - the virus uses this to enter cells

  • First the vaccine has to get into cells - it has to cross the cell membrane barrier

  • In some vaccines the mRNA has a lipid coat to enable it enter without needed a protein

  • Once translated the spike protein has to be recognised by the immune system - the cell achieves this by presenting it on its surface

  • This stimulates the production of antibodies which are specific to the spike protein

  • They prevent the spike protein from binding to its receptor


  • There's no right answer here, consider the function of different organs and what would happen to the body without them

  • Brain - processing of sensory information, generating motor commands, source of emotions, consciousness etc. Legal death is brain death therefore a favourite?

  • Heart - pumping of blood to rest of body, without it other organs would die from hypoxia due to lack of oxygen

  • Lungs - gas exchange surface, needed to get rid of carbon dioxide and take in oxygen for cells to respire

  • Kidneys - osmoregulation, filtering of the blood. It's possible to live with just one so this suggests it's not as important as the others

  • Liver - metabolism of harmful substances in the blood, filtering of substances, production of bile etc.


  • Not all DNA forms part of of the coding sequence for proteins hence the term 'junk'

  • While it's referred to as junk DNA, it is still important to suggest their purpose for being in the genome

  • Within genes there are introns which are spliced out during post-transcriptional modification of RNA

  • Exons can be arranged in different ways which increases the diversity of proteins which can be generated from the same gene

  • Sequences upstream of the gene are needed to recruit RNA polymerase and transcription factors e.g. the promoter sequence

  • Part of the DNA is required to recruit ribosomes when transcribed into mRNA (ribosome binding site)

  • Some parts of the DNA have unknown function e.g. repetitive elements

  • Some DNA sequences are remnants of past retroviral infections which have remained integrated into the genome




  • Think about the main functions of a placenta and suggest features accordingly

  • Each feature performs a function that the fetus' organs will perform post-natally (in brackets)

  • Gas exchange surface - high surface area with rich blood supply to maximise transfer of oxygen from mother to fetus (lungs)

  • Excretory functions, water balance, pH regulation - need someway to remove waste products from fetus (kidney)

  • Synthetic and secretory functions - useful to coordinate pregnancy changes in mother and fetus since it acts as the interface between the two (most endocrine glands)

  • Immunological interactions and protection - the fetus is a foreign body so placenta needs to ensure that the mother doesn't reject the fetus during pregnancy


  • Glucose is the substrate for respiration - cancer cells require more since they are constantly growing unregulated by the cell cycle

  • Glucose eventually used to generate ATP

  • ATP drives biosynthetic pathways such as nucleotide synthesis which cancer cells will be doing lots of

  • Gives the cancer cell an evolutionary advantage over other cells if it's able to divide more