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Molecular Epigenetics and Development: Histone Conformations, DNA Methylation and Genomic Imprinting

Introduced by Conrad Hal Waddington in 1942, the concept of epigenetics gave scientists a new paradigm of thought concerning embryonic development, and since then has been widely applied, for instance to inheritable diseases, molecular technologies, and indeed the human genome as a whole. A genome contains an embedded intricate coding template that provides a means of genetic expression from the initial steps of embryonic development until the death of the organism. Within the genome there are two prominent components: coding (exons) and non-coding (introns) sequences.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Human Genome Project (1990-2003)

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international scientific effort to sequence the entire human genome, that is, to produce a map of the base pairs of DNA in the human chromosomes, most of which do not vary among individuals. The HGP started in the US in 1990 as a public effort and included scientists and laboratories located in France, Germany, Japan, China, and the United Kingdom.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

David Starr Jordan (1851-1931)

David Starr Jordan studied fish and promoted eugenics in the US during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In his work, he embraced Charles Darwin s theory of evolution and described the importance of embryology in tracing phylogenic relationships. In 1891, he became the president of Stanford University in Stanford, California. Jordan condemned war and promoted conservationist causes for the California wilderness, and he advocated for the eugenic sterilization of thousands of Americans.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

The Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1957–1958), by Matthew Meselson and Franklin Stahl

In an experiment later named for them, Matthew Stanley Meselson and Franklin William Stahl in the US demonstrated during the 1950s the semi-conservative replication of DNA, such that each daughter DNA molecule contains one new daughter subunit and one subunit conserved from the parental DNA molecule. The researchers conducted the experiment at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, from October 1957 to January 1958.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Experiments

Matthew Howard Kaufman (1942-2013)

Matthew Kaufman was a professor of anatomy at the University of Edinburgh, in Edinburgh, UK, who specialized in mouse anatomy, development, and embryology during the late twentieth century. According to the The Herald, he was the first, alongside his colleague Martin Evans, to isolate and culture embryonic stem cells. Researchers initially called those cells Evans-Kaufman cells. In 1992, Kaufman published The Atlas of Mouse Development, a book that included photographs of mice development and mice organs over time.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

American Eugenics Society (1926-1972)

The American Eugenics Society (AES) was established in the US by
Madison Grant, Harry H. Laughlin, Henry Crampton, Irving Fisher, and
Henry F. Osborn in 1926 to promote eugenics education programs for
the US public. The AES described eugenics as the study of improving
the genetic composition of humans through controlled reproduction of
different races and classes of people. The AES aided smaller eugenic
efforts such as the Galton Society in New York, New York, and the

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

"On the Replication of Desoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA)" (1954), by Max Delbruck

In 1954 Max Delbruck published On the Replication of Desoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) to question the semi-conservative DNA replication mechanism proposed that James Watson and Francis Crick had proposed in 1953. In his article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Delbrück offers an alternative DNA replication mechanism, later called dispersive replication. Unlike other articles before it, On the Replication presents ways to experimentally test different DNA replication theories.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

The Notch Signaling Pathway in Embryogenesis

The Notch signaling pathway is a mechanism in animals by which adjacent cells communicate with each other, conveying spatial information and genetic instructions for the animal's development. All multicellular animals utilize Notch signaling, which contributes to the formation, growth, and development of embryos (embryogenesis). Notch signaling also contributes to the differentiation of embryonic cells into various types of cells into various types of cells, such as neurons.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

David Edwin Wildt (1950- )

David Edwin Wildt developed and applied assisted reproductive technologies to conserve rare and endangered wildlife species in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He advocated genome resource banks to help preserve biodiversity, and he advocated for practical ethics to guide wildlife reproductive biologists when they use technology and environmental planning. Wildt often focused on the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), but he researched greater than fifty vertebrate species.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Chernobyl Heart (2003)

In 2003, HBO Original Programming released the documentary Chernobyl Heart. Maryann De Leo directed and produced the film, which is about the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident and how the radiation from that accident has affected people living in the area. Side effects have included mental disabilities, physical disabilities, and genetic mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Richard Woltereck (1877-1944)

Richard Woltereck was a German zoologist and hydrobiologist who studied aquatic animals and extended the concept of Reaktionsnorm (norm of reaction) to the study of genetics. He also provided some of the first experimental evidence for the early twentieth-century embryological theory of heredity known as cytoplasmic inheritance. Through experiments on the water flea, Daphnia, Woltereck investigated whether variation produced by environmental impacts on development could play a role in heredity and evolution.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Experiments by Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka in 2006 and 2007

In 2006, Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka reprogrammed mice fibroblast cells, which can produce only other fibroblast cells, to become pluripotent stem cells, which have the capacity to produce many different types of cells. Takahashi and Yamanaka also experimented with human cell cultures in 2007. Each worked at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan. They called the pluripotent stem cells that they produced induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) because they had induced the adult cells, called differentiated cells, to become pluripotent stem cells through genetic manipulation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Pre- and Post-natal Growth Deficiencies and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) during pregnancy can inhibit prenatal growth, resulting in fetuses that are small for gestational age. Those prenatal growth deficiencies can have lasting consequences for early childhood development and are often reflected by low weight and stature. Those alcohol-induced pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies ("failure to thrive") are among the abnormal developmental criteria used to identify Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is characterized by minor facial abnormalities and deficiencies of the central nervous system as well.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Eugenical Sterilization in the United States (1922), by Harry H. Laughlin

Eugenical Sterilization in the United States is a 1922 book in which author Harry H. Laughlin argues for the necessity of compulsory sterilization in the United States based on the principles of eugenics. The eugenics movement of the early twentieth century in the US focused on altering the genetic makeup of the US population by regulating immigration and sterilization, and by discouraging interracial procreation, then called miscegenation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Legal, Ethics, Publications

Mary Warnock (1924- )

Baroness Mary Warnock of Weeke, a philosopher and crossbench member and Life Peer of the United Kingdom's House of Lords, participated in several national British committees of inquiry that dealt with ethical and policy issues surrounding animal experimentation, pollution, genetics, and euthanasia to educational policies for children with special needs. One of these was the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilization and Embryology, of which Warnock was the chair.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ooplasmic Transfer Technology

Ooplasmic transfer, also called cytoplasmic transfer, is an outside the body, in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique. Ooplasmic transfer in humans (Homo sapiens) is similar to in vitro fertilization (IVF), with a few additions. IVF is the process in which doctors manually combine an egg and sperm cells in a laboratory dish, as opposed to artificial insemination, which takes place in the female's body. For ooplasmic transfer, doctors withdraw cytoplasm from a donor's oocyte, and then they inject that cytoplasm with sperm into a patient's oocyte.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)

Transposition of the great arteries or TGA is a potentially fatal congenital heart malformation where the pulmonary artery and the aorta are switched. The switch means that the aorta, which normally carries oxygenated blood, carries deoxygenated blood. There are two types of the malformation, d-TGA where no oxygen reaches the body and l-TGA where some oxygenated blood circulates. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that about 1,901 infants are born each year with TGA, or about one for every 2,000 births.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

2D Obstetric Ultrasound

The development of the obstetric ultrasound has allowed physicians and embryologists to obtain a clear picture of the developing human embryo and fetus during pregnancy. Obstetric ultrasonography, often referred to as ultrasound, is a technology that uses sound waves to produce images of structures inside the human body. A handheld probe emits sound waves, which are reflected back by the different structures within the body.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation (1979-1984)

In the legal case In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation of the early 1980s, US military veterans of the Vietnam War sued the US chemical companies that had produced the herbicide Agent Orange, and those companies settled with US veterans out of court. Agent Orange contains dioxin, a chemical later shown to disrupt the hormone system of the body and to cause cancer. As veterans returned to the US from Vietnam, scientists further confirmed that exposure to Agent Orange caused a variety of cancers in veterans and developmental problems in the veterans' children.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

Sex-determining Region Y in Mammals

The Sex-determining Region Y (Sry in mammals but SRY in humans) is a gene found on Y chromosomes that leads to the development of male phenotypes, such as testes. The Sry gene, located on the short branch of the Y chromosome, initiates male embryonic development in the XY sex determination system. The Sry gene follows the central dogma of molecular biology; the DNA encoding the gene is transcribed into messenger RNA, which then produces a single Sry protein.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Kurt Benirschke (1924-)

Kurt Benirschke studied cells, placentas, and endangered species in Germany and the US during the twentieth century. Benirschke was professor at the University of California in San Diego, California, and a director of the research department at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California. He also helped form the research department of the San Diego Zoo and its sister organization, the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Naples, Italy

The Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (Anton Dohrn Zoological Station) is a public research institute focusing on biology and biodiversity. Hereafter called the Station, it was founded in Naples, Italy, in 1872 by Anton Dohrn. The type of research conducted at the Station has varied since it was created, though initial research focused on embryology. At the turn of the twentieth century, researchers at the Station established the sea urchin (Echinoidea) as a model organism for embryological research.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, People, Places

Using Digital PCR to Detect Fetal Chromosomal Aneuploidy in Maternal Blood (2007)

In 2007, Dennis Lo and his colleagues used digital polymerase chain reaction or PCR to detect trisomy 21 in maternal blood, validating the method as a means to detect fetal chromosomal aneuploidies, or an abnormal number of chromosomes in a cell. The team conducted their research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, and at the Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"Interspecific Chimeras in Mammals: Successful Production of Live Chimeras Between Mus musculus and Mus caroli" (1980), by Janet Rossant and William I. Frels

In 1980 Janet Rossant and William I. Frels published their paper, "Interspecific Chimeras in Mammals: Successful Production of Live Chimeras Between Mus musculus and Mus caroli," in Science. Their experiment involved the first successful creation of interspecific mammalian chimeras. Mammalian chimeras are valuable for studying early embryonic development. However, in earlier studies, clonal analysis was restricted by the lack of a cell marker, present at all times, that makes a distinction between the two parental cell types in situ.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments