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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

Thomas Hunt Morgan's Definition of Regeneration: Morphallaxis and Epimorphosis

For Thomas Hunt Morgan clarity was of utmost importance. He was therefore frustrated with the many disparate, disconnected terms that were used to refer to similar, if not the same, regenerative processes within organisms. When Morgan wrote Regeneration in 1901 there had been many different terms developed and adopted by various investigators to describe their observations. As a result there were many inconsistencies making it difficult to discuss results comparatively and also making it more challenging to generalize. Defining terms was a priority for Morgan.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Reassessment of Carrel's Immortal Tissue Culture Experiments

In the 1910s, Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon and biologist, concluded that cells are intrinsically immortal. His claim was based on chick-heart tissue cultures in his laboratory that seemed to be able to proliferate forever. Carrel's ideas about cellular immortality convinced his many contemporaries that cells could be maintained indefinitely. In the 1960s, however, Carrel's thesis about cell immortality was put into question by the discovery that human diploid cells can only proliferate for a finite period.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Theories

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

John von Neumann's Cellular Automata

Cellular automata (CA) are mathematical models used to simulate complex systems or processes. In several fields, including biology, physics, and chemistry, CA are employed to analyze phenomena such as the growth of plants, DNA evolution, and embryogenesis. In the 1940s John von Neumann formalized the idea of cellular automata in order to create a theoretical model for a self-reproducing machine. Von Neumann's work was motivated by his attempt to understand biological evolution and self-reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Spermism

Spermism was one of two models of preformationism, a theory of embryo generation prevalent in the late seventeenth through the end of the eighteenth century. Spermist preformationism was the belief that offspring develop from a tiny fully-formed fetus contained within the head of a sperm cell. This model developed slightly later than the opposing ovist model because sperm cells were not seen under the microscope until about 1677.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Ovism

Ovism was one of two models of preformationism, a theory of generation prevalent in the late seventeenth through the end of the eighteenth century. Contrary to the competing theory of epigenesis (gradual emergence of form), preformationism held that the unborn offspring existed fully formed in the eggs or sperm of its parents prior to conception. The ovist model held that the maternal egg was the location of this preformed embryo, while the other preformationism model known as spermism preferred the paternal germ cell, as the name implies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

Preformationism in the Enlightenment

Preformationism was a theory of embryological development used in the late seventeenth through the late eighteenth centuries. This theory held that the generation of offspring occurs as a result of an unfolding and growth of preformed parts. There were two competing models of preformationism: the ovism model, in which the location of these preformed parts prior to gestation was the maternal egg, and the spermism model, in which a preformed individual or homunculus was thought to exist in the head of each sperm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

The Meckel-Serres Conception of Recapitulation

Johann Friedrich Meckel and Antoine Etienne Reynaud Augustin Serres developed in the early 1800s the basic principles of what later became called the Meckel-Serres Law. Meckel and Serres both argued that fetal deformities result when development prematurely stops, and they argued that these arrests characterized lower life forms, through which higher order organisms progress during normal development. The concept that the embryos of higher order organisms progress through successive stages in which they resemble lower level forms is called recapitulation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"On the Origin of Mitosing Cells" (1967), by Lynn Sagan

On the Origin of Mitosing Cells by Lynn Sagan appeared in the March 1967 edition of the Journal of Theoretical Biology. At the time the article was published, Lynn Sagan had divorced astronomer Carl Sagan, but kept his last name. Later, she remarried and changed her name to Lynn Margulis, and will be referred to as such throughout this article. In her 1967 article, Margulis develops a theory for the origin of complex cells that have enclosed nuclei, called eukaryotic cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Neurocristopathies

Neurocristopathies are a class of pathologies in vertebrates,
including humans, that result from abnormal expression, migration,
differentiation, or death of neural crest cells (NCCs) during embryonic development. NCCs are cells
derived from the embryonic cellular structure called the neural crest.
Abnormal NCCs can cause a neurocristopathy by chemically affecting the
development of the non-NCC tissues around them. They can also affect the
development of NCC tissues, causing defective migration or

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Neural Crest

Early in the process of development, vertebrate embryos develop a fold on the neural plate where the neural and epidermal ectoderms meet, called the neural crest. The neural crest produces neural crest cells (NCCs), which become multiple different cell types and contribute to tissues and organs as an embryo develops. A few of the organs and tissues include peripheral and enteric (gastrointestinal) neurons and glia, pigment cells, cartilage and bone of the cranium and face, and smooth muscle.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Karl Ernst von Baer's Laws of Embryology

In 1828, while working at the University of Konigsberg in Konigsberg, Germany Karl Ernst von Baer proposed four laws of animal development, which came to be called von Baer's laws of embryology. With these laws, von Baer described the development (ontogeny) of animal embryos while also critiquing popular theories of animal development at the time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"Evolution and Tinkering" (1977), by Francois Jacob

In his essay Evolution and Tinkering, published in
Science in 1977, Francois Jacob argued that a common analogy
between the process of evolution by natural selection and the
methods of engineering is problematic. Instead, he proposed to
describe the process of evolution with the concept of
bricolage (tinkering). In this essay, Jacob did not deny the
importance of the mechanism of natural selection in shaping complex
adaptations. Instead, he maintained that the cumulative effects of

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Study of Fossilized Massospondylus Dinosaur Embryos from South Africa (1978-2012)

In 1978, James Kitching discovered two dinosaur embryos in a road-cut talus at Roodraai (Red Bend) in Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa. Kitching assigned the fossilized embryos to the species of long necked herbivores Massospondylus carinatus (longer vertebra) from the Early Jurassic period, between 200 and 183 million years ago. The embryos were partially visible but surrounded by eggshell and rock, called matrix. Kitching said that the eggs were too delicate to remove from the matrix without damage.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Organisms

The Discovery of The Dikika Baby Fossil as Evidence for Australopithecine Growth and Development

When scientists discovered a 3.3
million-year-old skeleton of a child of the human lineage (hominin) in
2000, in the village of Hadar, Ethiopia, they were able to study growth
and development of Australopithecus
afarensis, an extinct hominin species. The team of researchers,
led by Zeresenay Alemseged of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary
Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, named the fossil DIK 1-1 and nicknamed
it Dikika baby after the Dikika research site. The Dikika fossil

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Purkinje Cells

Purkinje cells, also called Purkinje neurons, are neurons in vertebrate animals located in the cerebellar cortex of the brain. Purkinje cell bodies are shaped like a flask and have many threadlike extensions called dendrites, which receive impulses from other neurons called granule cells. Each cell also has a single projection called an axon, which transmits impulses to the part of the brain that controls movement, the cerebellum. Purkinje cells are inhibitory neurons: they secrete neurotransmitters that bind to receptors that inhibit or reduce the firing of other neurons.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Hayflick Limit

The Hayflick Limit is a concept that helps to explain the
mechanisms behind cellular aging. The concept states that a normal human
cell can only replicate and divide forty to sixty times before it
cannot divide anymore, and will break down by programmed cell death
or apoptosis. The concept of the Hayflick Limit revised Alexis
Carrel's earlier theory, which stated that cells can replicate
themselves infinitely. Leonard Hayflick developed the concept while
at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia,

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is located outside the nucleus in the liquid portion of the cell (cytoplasm) inside cellular organelles called Mitochondria. Mitochondria are located in all complex or eukaryotic cells, including plant, animal, fungi, and single celled protists, which contain their own mtDNA genome. In animals with a backbone, or vertebrates, mtDNA is a double stranded, circular molecule that forms a circular genome, which ranges in size from sixteen to eighteen kilo-base pairs, depending on species. Each mitochondrion in a cell can have multiple copies of the mtDNA genome.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Telomeres and Telomerase in Cellular Aging (Senescence)

Telomeres are sequences of DNA on the ends of chromosomes that protect chromosomes from sticking to each other or tangling, which could cause irregularities in normal DNA functions. As cells replicate, telomeres shorten at the end of chromosomes, which correlates to senescence or cellular aging. Integral to this process is telomerase, which is an enzyme that repairs telomeres and is present in various cells in the human body, especially during human growth and development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

David Reimer and John Money Gender Reassignment Controversy: The John/Joan Case

In the mid-1960s, psychologist John Money encouraged the gender reassignment of David Reimer, who was born a biological male but suffered irreparable damage to his penis as an infant. Born in 1965 as Bruce Reimer, his penis was irreparably damaged during infancy due to a failed circumcision. After encouragement from Money, Reimer’s parents decided to raise Reimer as a girl. Reimer underwent surgery as an infant to construct rudimentary female genitals, and was given female hormones during puberty.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Categorization of Conservative, Semi-Conservative, and Dispersive DNA Replication Theories (1953–1956)

In 1956, Gunther Stent, a scientist at the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, California, coined the terms conservative, semi-conservative, and dispersive to categorize the prevailing theories about how DNA replicated. Stent presented a paper with Max Delbrück titled “On the Mechanism of DNA Replication” at the McCollum-Pratt Symposium at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In response to James Watson and Francis Crick’s proposed structure of DNA in 1953, scientists debated how DNA replicated.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories