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Morphogenesis

The term morphogenesis generally refers to the processes by which order is created in the developing organism. This order is achieved as differentiated cells carefully organize into tissues, organs, organ systems, and ultimately the organism as a whole. Questions centered on morphogenesis have aimed to uncover the mechanisms responsible for this organization, and developmental biology textbooks have identified morphogenesis as one of the main challenges in the field. The concept of morphogenesis is intertwined with those of differentiation, growth, and reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Morphogenesis: An Essay on Development (1952), by John Tyler Bonner

Throughout his long and fruitful career John Tyler Bonner has made great strides in understanding basic issues of embryology and developmental-evolutionary biology. Indeed, Bonner's work on morphogenesis highlighted synergies between development and evolution long before "evo-devo" became a part of the scientific lingua franca. Princeton University Press published his first book, Morphogenesis: An Essay on Development, in 1952. In his autobiography Lives of a Biologist, Bonner described his motivations for writing Morphogenesis as a book about developmental biology.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Essay: The Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate

In 1830, a dispute erupted in the halls of lÕAcad mie des Sciences in Paris between the two most prominent anatomists of the nineteenth century. Georges Cuvier and tienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, once friends and colleagues at the Paris Museum, became arch rivals after this historical episode. Like many important disputes in the history of science, this debate echoes several points of contrasts between the two thinkers.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Theories

Essay: Homology

Homology is a central concept of comparative and evolutionary biology, referring to the presence of the same bodily parts (e.g., morphological structures) in different species. The existence of homologies is explained by common ancestry, and according to modern definitions of homology, two structures in different species are homologous if they are derived from the same structure in the common ancestor.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Processes

"The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis" (1952), by Alan M. Turing

In 1952 the article "The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis" by the British mathematician and logician Alan M. Turing was published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. In that article Turing describes a mathematical model of the growing embryo. He uses this model to show how embryos develop patterns and structures (e.g., coat patterns and limbs, respectively). Turing's mathematical approach became fundamental for explaining the developmental process of embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Essay: Review of Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos

To Lynn M. Morgan, the Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology at Mt. Holyoke College, nothing says life more than a dead embryo. In her easily readable book, Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos, Morgan brings together cultural phenomena, ethics, and embryology to show that even dead embryos and fetuses have their own stories to tell. As an anthropologist, Morgan is interested in many things, including the science of embryology and its history. But she also wants to know how culture influences our views on embryos and the material practices that accompany their study.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Publications

"Cellular death in morphogenesis of the avian wing" (1962), by John W. Saunders Jr., et al.

In the early 1960s, John W. Saunders Jr., Mary T. Gasseling, and Lilyan C. Saunders in the US investigated how cells die in the developing limbs of chick embryos. They studied when and where in developing limbs many cells die, and they studied the functions of cell death in wing development. At a time when only a few developmental biologists studied cell death, or apoptosis, Saunders and his colleagues showed that researchers could use embryological experiments to uncover the causal mechanisms of apotosis.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954)

Alan Mathison Turing was a British mathematician and computer scientist who lived in the early twentieth century. Among important contributions in the field of mathematics, computer science, and philosophy, he developed a mathematical model of morphogenesis. This model describing biological growth became fundamental for research on the process of embryo development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Viktor Hamburger's Study of Central-Peripheral Relations in the Development of Nervous System

An important question throughout the history of embryology is whether the formation of a biological structure is predetermined or shaped by its environment. If both intrinsic and environmental controls occur, how exactly do the two processes coordinate in crafting specific forms and functions? When Viktor Hamburger started his PhD study in embryology in the 1920s, few neuroembryologists were investigating how the central neurons innervate peripheral organs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"The Development of the Pronephros during the Embryonic and Early Larval Life of the Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)" (1932), by Rachel L. Carson

Rachel L. Carson studied biology at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and graduated in 1933 with an MA upon the completion of her thesis, The Development of the Pronephros during the Embryonic and Early Larval Life of the Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). The research that Carson conducted for this thesis project grounded many of the claims and observations she presented in her 1962 book, Silent Spring.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Experiments, Publications

John Tyler Bonner (1920- )

The establishment and growth of developmental-evolutionary biology owes a great debt to the work of John Tyler Bonner. Bonner's studies of cellular slime molds have shed light on some of the big questions of biology including the origins of multicellularity and the nature of morphogenesis. The second child of Lilly Marguerite Stehli and Paul Bonner, John Tyler was born 12 May 1920 in New York City and spent his early years in Locust Valley, Long Island (late 1920s), France (1930), and London (1932).

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Source-Sink Model

The source-sink model, first proposed by biologist Francis Crick in 1970, is a theoretical system for how morphogens distribute themselves across small fields of early embryonic cells. A morphogen is a substance that determines the fate and phenotype of a group of cells through a concentration gradient of itself across that group. Crick’s theory has been experimentally confirmed with several morphogens, most notably with the protein bicoid , the first discovered morphogen. The model provides a theoretical structure for the understanding of some features of early embryonic development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Effects of Diethylstilbestrol on Embryonic Development

Estrogen plays a key role in the regulation of gene transcription. This is accomplished by its ability to act as a ligand and to bind to specific estrogen receptor (ER) molecules, such as ERα and ERβ, which act as nuclear transcription factors. There are three major nuclear estrogen receptor protein domains: the estrogen binding domain, the protein interaction domain, and the DNA binding domain.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

The Effects of Thalidomide on Embryonic Development

Embryogenesis is an intricate process that can easily be disrupted by means of teratogenic agents. Some of these agents target the embryonic period's "window of susceptibility," three to eight weeks after a pregnant woman's last menstruation, when the highest degree of sensitivity to embryonic cell differentiation and organ formation occurs. The embryonic period or critical period is when most organ systems form, whereas the fetal period, week eight to birth, involves the growth and modeling of the organ systems.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Disorders

The Effects of Bisphenol A on Embryonic Development

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound that was first synthesized by Aleksandr Dianin, a Russian chemist from St. Petersburg, in 1891. The chemical nomenclature of BPA is 2,2-bis (4-hydroxyphenyl) propane. The significance of this synthesized compound did not receive much attention until 1936, when two biochemists interested in endocrinology, Edward Dodds and William Lawson, discovered its ability to act as an estrogen agonist in ovariectomized, estrogen-deficient rats.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Methylmercury and Human Embryonic Development

Methylmercury (MeHg) is an organic form of mercury that can damage the developing brains of human fetuses. Women who consume methylmercury during pregnancy can bear children who have neurological issues because methylmercury has toxic effects on the nervous system during embryonic development. During the third week of gestation, the human nervous system begins to form in the embryo. During this gestational period, the embryo's nervous system is particularly susceptible to the influence of neurotoxins like methylmercury that can result in abnormalities.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Apoptosis in Embryonic Development

Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is a mechanism in embryonic development that occurs naturally in organisms. Apoptosis is a different process from cell necrosis, which is uncontrolled cell death usually after infection or specific trauma. As cells rapidly proliferate during development, some of them undergo apoptosis, which is necessary for many stages in development, including neural development, reduction in egg cells (oocytes) at birth, as well as the shaping of fingers and vestigial organs in humans and other animals. Sydney Brenner, H. Robert Horvitz, and John E.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Process of Eukaryotic Embryonic Development

All sexually reproducing, multicellular diploid eukaryotes begin life as embryos. Understanding the stages of embryonic development is vital to explaining how eukaryotes form and how they are related on the tree of life. This understanding can also help answer questions related to morphology, ethics, medicine, and other pertinent fields of study. In particular, the field of comparative embryology is concerned with documenting the stages of ontogeny.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Telomerase in Human Development

Telomerase is an enzyme that regulates the lengths of telomeres in the cells of many organisms, and in humans it begins to function int the early stages of embryonic development. Telomeres are repetitive sequences of DNA on the ends of chromosomes that protect chromosomes from sticking to each other or tangling. In 1989, Gregg Morin found that telomerase was present in human cells. In 1996, Woodring Wright and his team examined human embryonic cells and found that telomerase was active in them. Scientists manipulate telomerase in cells to give cells the capacity to replicate infinitely.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Inducing Fertilization and Development in Sand Dollars

Sand dollars are common marine invertebrates in the phylum Echinodermata and share the same class (Echinoidea) as sea urchins. They have served as model laboratory organisms for such embryologists as Frank Rattray Lillie and Ernest Everett Just. Both Lillie and Just used Echinarachnius parma for their studies of egg cell membranes and embryo development at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in the early 1900s.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

The Development of Mifepristone for Use in Medication Abortions

In the 1980s, researchers at the pharmaceutical company Roussel-Uclaf in Paris, France, helped develop a biological compound called mifepristone. When a woman takes it, mifepristone interferes with the function of hormones involved in pregnancy and it can therefore be used to terminate pregnancies. In 2000, the US Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, also called RU 486, as part of a treatment to induce abortions using drugs instead of surgery, a method called medication abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction

John Philip Trinkaus (1918-2003)

John Philip Trinkaus studied the processes of cell migration and gastrulation, especially in teleost fish, in the US during the twentieth century. Called Trink by his friends, his social confidence and work ethic combined to make him a prolific and decorated developmental biologist. His scientific contributions included investigations of several different aspects of embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Human Evolution Inferred from Tooth Growth and Development

To study human evolution, researchers sometimes use microstructures found in human teeth and their knowledge of the processes by which those structures grow. Human fetusus begin to develop teeth in utero. As teeth grow, they form a hard outer substance, called enamel, through a process called amelogenesis. During amelogenesis, incremental layers of enamel form in a Circadian rhythm. This rhythmic deposition leaves the enamel with microstructures, called cross-striations and striae of Retzius, which have a regular periodicity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Slime mold development video by John Tyler Bonner

This video is composed of a sequence of time lapse films created by John Tyler Bonner in the 1940s to show the life cycle of the cellular slime mold, Dictyostelium discoideum. As only the second person to study slime molds, Bonner frequently encountered audiences who had never heard of, let alone seen, the unusual organism. He therefore decided to create a film to present at seminars in order to introduce his object of study. Bonner created the video for his senior thesis at Harvard University with the help of photographer Frank Smith.

Format: Video

Subject: Organisms

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Ocular Development

Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) can result in a range of alcohol-induced developmental defects. In humans, those collective birth defects are called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, with the most severe manifestation being Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is defined by pre- and post-natal growth retardation, minor facial abnormalities, and deficiencies in the central nervous system (CNS). The eye and ocular system development is particularly susceptible to the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and can result in visual impairment or blindness.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

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