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Homunculus

The term homunculus is Latin for "little man." It is used in neurology today to describe the map in the brain of sensory neurons in each part of the body (the somatosensory homunculus). An early use of the word was in the 1572 work by Paracelsus regarding forays into alchemy, De Natura Rerum, in which he gave instructions in how to create an infant human without fertilization or gestation in the womb. In the history of embryology, the homunculus was part of the Enlightenment-era theory of generation called preformationism.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Test-Tube Baby

A test-tube baby is the product of a successful human reproduction that results from methods beyond sexual intercourse between a man and a woman and instead utilizes medical intervention that manipulates both the egg and sperm cells for successful fertilization. The term was originally used to refer to the babies born from the earliest applications of artificial insemination and has now been expanded to refer to children born through the use of in vitro fertilization, the practice of fertilizing an embryo outside of a woman's body.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

Quickening

Quickening, the point at which a pregnant woman can first feel the movements of the growing embryo or fetus, has long been considered a pivotal moment in pregnancy. Over time, this experience has been used in a variety of contexts, ranging from representing the point of ensoulment to determining whether an abortion was legal to indicating the gender of the unborn baby; philosophy, theology, and law all address the idea of quickening in detail. Beginning with Aristotle, quickening divided the developmental stages of embryo and fetus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

The Yale Embryo

In 1934 a fourteen-day-old embryo was discovered during a postmortem examination and became famous for being the youngest known human embryo specimen at the time. The embryo was coined "the Yale Embryo," named after the location where it was discovered, Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. During the early twentieth century, the rush to collect embryos as well as to find younger and younger embryos was at an all time high, and the Yale Embryo is representative of the this enthusiasm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Sperm Capacitation

Sperm capacitation refers to the physiological changes spermatozoa must undergo in order to have the ability to penetrate and fertilize an egg. This term was first coined in 1952 by Colin Russell Austin based on independent studies conducted by both Austin himself as well as Min Chueh Chang in 1951. Since the initial reports and emergence of the term, the details of the process have been more clearly elucidated due to technological advancements.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Abortion

Abortion is the removal of the embryo or fetus from the womb, before birth can occur-either naturally or by induced labor. Prenatal development occurs in three stages: the zygote, or fertilized egg; the embryo, from post-conception to eight weeks; and the fetus, from eight weeks after conception until the baby is born. After abortion, the infant does not and cannot live. Spontaneous abortion is the loss of the infant naturally or accidentally, without the will of the mother. It is more commonly referred to as miscarriage.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

Amniocentesis Prior to 1980

The extraembryonic membranes that surround and originate from the embryos of vertebrates such as birds, reptiles, and mammals are crucial to their development. They are integral to increasing the surface area of the uterus, forming the chorion (which in turn produces the placenta) and the amnion, respectively. The amnion will ultimately surround the embryo in a fluid-filled amniotic cavity. This amniotic fluid, which cushions and protects the fetus and helps prevent the onset of labor, is sampled in amniocentesis to screen for genetic diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Hartsoeker's Homunculus Sketch from Essai de Dioptrique

This embryology image is a pencil sketch by Nicolaas Hartsoeker, published as part of his 1694 French-language paper entitled Essai de Dioptrique, a semi-speculative work describing the sorts of new scientific observations that could be done using magnifying lenses. Dioptrique was published in Paris by the publishing house of Jean Anisson. The image depicts a curled up infant-like human, now referred to as a homunculus, inside the head of a sperm cell.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Processes

Ectopic Pregnancy

Many difficulties can arise with a pregnancy even after the sperm successfully fertilizes the oocyte. A major problem occurs if the fertilized egg tries to implant before reaching its normal implantation site, the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants anywhere other than in the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies cannot continue to term, so a physician must remove the developing embryo as early as possible.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Processes, Reproduction

Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells (UCBSC)

Umbilical cord blood (UCB) stem cells are hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) that are recovered from the blood of the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. Umbilical cord blood is rich in cells that express the CD34 molecule, a surface protein that identifies cells as stem cells. Prior to the discovery of UCB stem cells, it was standard procedure to discard the umbilical cord and placenta; now much effort is devoted to raising public awareness and to encouraging people to store or donate cord blood.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Teratomas

Teratomas are embryonal tumors that normally arise from germ cells and are typically benign. They are defined as being composed either of tissues that are foreign to the area in which they form, or of tissues that derive from all three of the germ layers. Malignant teratomas are known as teratocarcinomas; these cancerous growths have played a pivotal role in the discovery of stem cells. "Teratoma" is Greek for "monstrous tumor"; these tumors were so named because they sometimes contain hair, teeth, bone, neurons, and even eyes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Disorders

Nerve Growth Factor

Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a signaling protein and growth factor implicated in a wide range of development and maintenance functions. NGF was discovered through a series of experiments in the 1950s on the development of the chick nervous system. Since its discovery, NGF has been found to act in a variety of tissues throughout development and adulthood. It has been implicated in immune function, stress response, nerve maintenance, and in neurodegenerative diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Meiosis in Humans

Meiosis, the process by which sexually-reproducing organisms generate gametes (sex cells), is an essential precondition for the normal formation of the embryo. As sexually reproducing, diploid, multicellular eukaryotes, humans rely on meiosis to serve a number of important functions, including the promotion of genetic diversity and the creation of proper conditions for reproductive success.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Multi-Fetal Pregnancy

In humans, multi-fetal pregnancy occurs when a mother carries more than one fetus during the pregnancy. The most common multi-fetal pregnancy is twins, but mothers have given birth to up to eight children (octuplets) from a single pregnancy. Multiple fetusus can result from the release of multiple eggs or multiple ovulations, the splitting of a single fertilized egg, and fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) which involves the insertion of many fertilized eggs into the mother's uterus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that are capable of dividing for long periods of time and can give rise to specialized cells under particular conditions. Embryonic stem cells are a particular type of stem cell derived from embryos. According to US National Institutes of Health (NIH), in humans, the term "embryo" applies to a fertilized egg from the beginning of division up to the end of the eighth week of gestation, when the embryo becomes a fetus. Between fertilization and the eighth week of gestation, the embryo undergoes multiple cell divisions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

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 French Flag Model

The French flag model represents how embryonic cells receive and respond to genetic information and subsequently differentiate into patterns. Created by Lewis Wolpert in the late 1960s, the model uses the French tricolor flag as visual representation to explain how embryonic cells can interpret genetic code to create the same pattern even when certain pieces of the embryo are removed. Wolpert's model has provided crucial theoretical framework for investigating universal mechanisms of pattern formation during development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Theories

Epidermal Growth Factor

Epidermal growth factor is a signaling molecule that stimulates the growth of epidermal tissues during development and throughout life. Stanley Cohen discovered epidermal growth factor (EGF) during studies of nerve growth factor as a side effect of other experiments. EGF stimulates tissue growth by initiating a variety of cellular mechanisms. This work led to the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Embryonic Differentiation in Animals

Embryonic differentiation is the process of development during which embryonic cells specialize and diverse tissue structures arise. Animals are made up of many different cell types, each with specific functions in the body. However, during early embryonic development, the embryo does not yet possess these varied cells; this is where embryonic differentiation comes into play. The differentiation of cells during embryogenesis is the key to cell, tissue, organ, and organism identity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Gastrulation in Xenopus

The process of gastrulation allows for the formation of the germ layers in metazoan embryos, and is generally achieved through a series of complex and coordinated cellular movements. The process of gastrulation can be either diploblastic or triploblastic. In diploblastic organisms like cnidaria or ctenophora, only the endoderm and the ectoderm form; in triploblastic organisms (most other complex metazoans), triploblastic gastrulation produces all three germ layers.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Circulatory Changes at Birth

When placental mammals are born their circulatory systems undergo radical changes as the newborns are prepared for independent life. The lungs are engaged, becoming the primary source of fresh oxygen, replacing the placental barrier as a means for blood-gas exchange.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Hematopoietic Stem Cells

The discovery of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) provided a pioneering step in stem cell research. HSCs are a type of multipotent adult stem cell, characterized by their ability to self-renew and differentiate into erythrocyte (red blood cell) and leukocyte (white blood cell) cell lineages. In terms of function, these cells are responsible for the continual renewal of the erythrocytes, leukocytes, and platelets in the body through a process called hematopoiesis. They also play an important role in the formation of vital organs such as the liver and spleen during fetal development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

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

Post-Coital Oral Emergency Contraception

Post-coital oral emergency contraception is used for the prevention of pregnancy after intercourse. The contraception comes in the form of pills, often collectively referred to as morning-after pills. Post-coital use of morning-after pills separates them from traditional contraception which is either a continual preventative process, such as the birth control pill, or used during intercourse, such as condoms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Rh Incompatibility in Pregnancy

Rh incompatibility occurs when a pregnant woman whose blood type is Rh-negative is exposed to Rh-positive blood from her fetus, leading to the mother s development of Rh antibodies. These antibodies have the potential to cross the placenta and attach to fetal red blood cells, resulting in hemolysis, or destruction of the fetus 's red blood cells. This causes the fetus to become anemic, which can lead to hemolytic disease of the newborn. In severe cases, an intrauterine blood transfusion for the fetus may be required to correct the anemia.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Disorders, Reproduction

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