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Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Central Nervous System Development

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical, neurological, behavioral, and learning defects collectively grouped under the heading Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is part of this group and was first defined in 1973 as a condition characterized by pre- and postnatal growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities and defects of the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is particularly vulnerable to the effects of ethanol during prenatal development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

"The Effects of Wing Bud Extirpation on the Development of the Central Nervous System in Chick Embryos" (1934), by Viktor Hamburger

German embryologist Viktor Hamburger came to the US in 1932 with a fellowship provided by the Rockefeller Foundation. Hamburger started his research in Frank Rattray Lillie's laboratory at the University of Chicago. His two-year work on the development of the central nervous system (CNS) in chick embryos was crystallized in his 1934 paper, "The Effects of Wing Bud Extirpation on the Development of the Central Nervous System in Chick Embryos," published in The Journal of Experimental Zoology.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Experiments

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

"Genetic Programming: Artificial Nervous Systems, Artificial Embryos and Embryological Electronics" (1991), by Hugo de Garis

In 1991, Hugo de Garis' article "Genetic Programming: Artificial Nervous Systems, Artificial Embryos and Embryological Electronics" was published in the book Parallel Problem Solving from Nature. With this article de Garis hoped to create what he envisioned as a new branch of artificial embryology called embryonics (short term for "embryological electronics"). Embryonics is based on the idea of adapting the processes found in embryonic development to build artificial systems.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Selective Growth Stimulating Effects of Mouse Sarcoma on the Sensory and Sympathetic Nervous System of the Chick Embryo" (1951), by Rita Levi-Montalcini and Viktor Hamburger

In "Selective Growth Stimulating Effects of Mouse Sarcoma on the Sensory and Sympathetic Nervous System of the Chick Embryo," Rita Levi-Montalcini and Viktor Hamburger explored the effects of two nerve growth stimulating tumors; mouse sarcomas 180 and 37. This experiment led to the discovery that nerve growth factor was a diffusible chemical and later to discoveries that the compound was a protein. Although this paper was an important step in the discovery of nerve growth factor, the term "nerve growth factor" was not used in this paper.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Syncytial Theory

The syncytial theory of neural development was proposed by Victor Hensen in 1864 to explain the growth and differentiation of the nervous system. This theory has since been discredited, although it held a significant following at the turn of the twentieth century. Neural development was well studied but poorly understood, so Hensen proposed a simple model of development. The syncytial theory predicted that the nervous system was composed of many neurons with shared cytoplasm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

The concept Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) refers to a set of birth defects that occur in children born to mothers who abused alcohol during pregnancy. The alcohol-induced defects include pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies, minor facial abnormalities, and damage to the developing central nervous system (CNS).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

The Neuron Doctrine (1860-1895)

The neuron doctrine is a concept formed during the turn of the twentieth century that describes the properties of neurons, the specialized cells that compose the nervous system. The neuron doctrine was one of two major theories on the composition of the nervous system at the time. Advocates of the neuron doctrine claimed that the nervous system was composed of discrete cellular units. Proponents of the alternative reticular theory, on the other hand, argued that the entire nervous system was a continuous network of cells, without gaps or synapses between the cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Thomas Hunt Morgan, children & friends at the Grand Central Station

Thomas Hunt Morgan, children & friends at the Grand Central Station in New York City waiting for train to Woods Hole

Format: Photographs

Subject: People

Cerebral Organoid as a Model System in the Study of Microcephaly

Scientists use cerebral organoids, which are artificially produced miniature organs that represent embryonic or fetal brains and have many properties similar to them, to help them study developmental disorders like microcephaly. In human embryos, cerebral tissue in the form of neuroectoderm appears within the first nine weeks of human development, and it gives rise to the brain and spinal cord.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Retinoids As Teratogens

Vitamin A (retinol) is an essential vitamin in the daily functioning of human beings that helps regulate cellular differentiation of epithelial tissue. Studies have shown that an excess of vitamin A can affect embryonic development and result in teratogenesis, or the production of birth defects in a developing embryo. Excess intake of vitamin A and retinoids by pregnant women often results malformations to fetuses' skulls, faces, limbs, eyes, central nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Simat Corp v. Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (2002)

In the 2002 case Simat Corp v. Arizona Health Care Containment System, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the Arizona Health Care Containment System must pay for abortions when they are necessary to preserve the health of pregnant women in the system. In the case, the Court ruled that the Arizona Revised Statutes 35-196.02 and the Arizona Health Care Containment System (AHCCCS) policies, which banned public funds from being used for abortions, were unconstitutional. AHCCCS is Arizona's Medicaid insurance system, which enables low-income residents to receive medical care.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Julia Bell (1879-1979)

Julia Bell worked in twentieth-century Britain, discovered Fragile X Syndrome, and helped find heritable elements of other developmental and genetic disorders. Bell also wrote much of the five volume Treasury of Human Inheritance, a collection about genetics and genetic disorders. Bell researched until late in life, authoring an original research article on the effects of the rubella virus of fetal development (Congenital Rubella Syndrome) at the age of 80.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Dandy-Walker Syndrome

Dandy-Walker Syndrome is a congenital brain defect in humans characterized by malformations to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement, and to the ventricles, the fluid-filled cavities that surround the cerebellum. The syndrome is named for physicians Walter Dandy and Arthur Walker who described associated signs and symptoms of the syndrome in the 1900s. The malformations often develop during embryonic stages.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

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

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Basal Ganglia Development

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) in human and animal models results 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 basal ganglia, one of the central nervous system components, are affected by exposure to ethanol during development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Gene Transfer Strategy Used to Treat Tay - Sachs Disease (2005), by Sabata Martino’s Research Group

In the early 2000s, Sabata Martino and a team of researchers in Italy and Germany showed that they could reduce the symptoms of Tay-Sachs in afflicted mice by injecting them with a virus that infected their cells with a gene they lacked. Tay-Sachs disease is a fatal degenerative disorder that occurs in infants and causes rapid motor and mental impairment, leading to death at the ages of three to five. In gene therapy, researchers insert normal genes into cells that have missing or defective genes in order to correct genetic disorders.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Camillo Golgi (1843–1926)

Camillo Golgi studied the central nervous system during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Italy, and he developed a staining technique to visualize brain cells. Called the black reaction, Golgi’s staining technique enabled him to see the cellular structure of brain cells, called neurons, with much greater precision. Golgi also used the black reaction to identify structures within animal cells like the internal reticular apparatus that stores, packs, and modifies proteins, later named the Golgi apparatus in his honor.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

The Formation of Reticular Theory

In the nineteenth century, reticular theory aimed to describe the properties of neurons, the specialized cells which make up the nervous system, but was later disconfirmed by evidence. Reticular theory stated that the nervous system was composed of a continuous network of specialized cells without gaps (synapses), and was first proposed by researcher Joseph von Gerlach in Germany in 1871.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Camillo Golgi's Black Reaction for Staining Neurons

In 1873 Italy, Camillo Golgi created the black reaction technique, which enabled scientists to stain and view the structure of neurons, the specialized cells that compose the nervous system. During the nineteenth century, scientists were studying cells and proposed cell theory, which describes the basic characteristics of cells as fundamental units of life. However, cell theory struggled to explain neurons as they are specialized cells and more complex in structure than cells of other tissues.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Cocaine as a Teratogen

Cocaine use by pregnant women has a variety of effects on the embryo and fetus, ranging from various gastro-intestinal and cardiac defects to tissue death from insufficient blood supply. Thus, cocaine has been termed a teratogen, or an agent that causes defects in fetuses during prenatal development. Cocaine is one of the most commonly used drugs in the US and it has a history of both medical and illegal recreational use. It is a drug capable of a wide array of effects on physical and mental health.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Cardiac Development

A variety of developmental defects occur as a result of prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) in utero. In humans, those defects are collectively classified as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) representing the more severe defects. FAS is defined by pre- and post-natal growth retardation, minor facial abnormalities, and deficiencies in the central nervous system (CNS). In addition to those defects, prenatal exposure to alcohol impacts cardiogenesis, the developmental stage of heart formation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012)

Rita Levi-Montalcini is a Nobel Laureate recognized for her work in the discovery and characterization of nerve growth factor. Nerve growth factor (NGF) promotes the growth and maintenance of the nervous system in a developing system. The majority of her career has been devoted to investigating the many aspects of NGF.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Effect of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Radial Glial Cells

Prenatal alcohol (ethanol) exposure can have dramatic effects on the development of the central nervous system (CNS), including morphological abnormalities and an overall reduction in white matter of the brain. The impact of ethanol on neural stem cells such as radial glia (RG) has proven to be a significant cause of these defects, interfering with the creation and migration of neurons and glial cells during development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

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