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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

Fate Map

Early development occurs in a highly organized and orchestrated manner and has long attracted the interest of developmental biologists and embryologists. Cell lineage, or the study of the developmental differentiation of a blastomere, involves tracing a particular cell (blastomere) forward from its position in one of the three germ layers. Labeling individual cells within their germ layers allows for a pictorial interpretation of gastrulation. This chart or graphical representation detailing the fate of each part of an early embryo is referred to as a fate map.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

August Antonius Rauber (1841-1917)

August Antonius Rauber was an embryologist and anatomist who examined gastrulation in avian embryos. He examined the formation of the blastopore, epiblast, and primitive streak during chick development. Subsequent researchers have further studied Rauber's findings, which has led to new discoveries in embryology and developmental biology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Gastrulation in Gallus gallus (Domestic Chicken)

Gastrulation is an early stage in embryo development in which the blastula reorganizes into three germ layers: the ectoderm, the mesoderm, and the endoderm. Gastrulation occurs after cleavage but before neurulation and organogenesis. Ernst Haeckel coined the term; gaster, meaning stomach in Latin, is the root for gastrulation, as the gut is one of the most unique creations of the gastrula.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Hensen's Node

A node, or primitive knot, is an enlarged group of cells located in the anterior portion of the primitive streak in a developing gastrula. The node is the site where gastrulation, the formation of the three germ layers, first begins. The node determines and patterns the anterior-posterior axis of the embryo by directing the development of the chordamesoderm. The chordamesoderm is a specific type of mesoderm that will differentiate into the notochord, somites, and neural tube. Those structures will later form the vertebral column.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Homeobox Genes and the Homeobox

Homeobox genes are a cluster of regulatory genes that are spatially and temporally expressed during early embryological development. They are interesting from both a developmental and evolutionary perspective since their sequences are highly conserved and shared across an enormously wide array of living taxa.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

"Developmental Capacity of Nuclei Transplanted from Keratinized Skin Cells of Adult Frogs" (1975), by John Gurdon, Ronald Laskey, and O. Raymond Reeves

In 1975 John Gurdon, Ronald Laskey, and O. Raymond Reeves published "Developmental Capacity of Nuclei Transplanted from Keratinized Skin Cells of Adult Frogs," in the Journal of Embryology and Experimental Morphology. Their article was the capstone of a series of experiments performed by Gurdon during his time at Oxford and Cambridge, using the frog species Xenopus laevis. Gurdon's first experiment in 1958 showed that the nuclei of Xenopus cells maintained their ability to direct normal development when transplanted.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

"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

Shinya Yamanaka (1962- )

Shinya Yamanaka gained international prominence after publishing articles detailing the successful generation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, first in mice, then in humans. Yamanaka induced somatic cells to act like human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), allowing researchers to experiment with non-embryonic stem cells with a similar capacity as hESCs. The research involving iPS cells therefore offered new potential for research and application in medical treatment, without many of the ethical objections that hESC research entailed.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Discovery of p53 Protein

The p53 protein acts as a pivotal suppressor of inappropriate cell proliferation. By initiating suppressive effects through induction of apoptosis, cell senescence, or transient cell-cycle arrest, p53 plays an important role in cancer suppression, developmental regulation, and aging. Its discovery in 1979 was a product of research into viral etiology and the immunology of cancer. The p53 protein was first identified in a study of the role of viruses in cancer through its ability to form a complex with viral tumor antigens.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"Generation of Germline-Competent Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells" (2007), by Keisuke Okita, Tomoko Ichisaka, and Shinya Yamanaka

In the July 2007 issue of Nature, Keisuke Okita, Tomoko Ichisaka, and Shinya Yamanaka added to the new work on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) with their "Generation of Germline-Competent Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells" (henceforth abbreviated "Generation"). The authors begin the paper by noting their desire to find a method for inducing somatic cells of patients to return to a pluripotent state, a state from which the cell can differentiate into any type of tissue but cannot form an entire organism.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Nicole Le Douarin and Charles Ordahl's Experiments on the Developmental Lineages of Somites

Through various studies developmental biologists have been able to determine that the muscles of the back, ribs, and limbs derive from somites. Somites are blocks of cells that contain distinct sections that diverge into specific types (axial or limb) of musculature and are an essential part of early vertebrate development. For many years the musculature of vertebrates was known to derive from the somites, but the exact developmental lineage of axial and limb muscle progenitor cells remained a mystery until Nicole Le Douarin and Charles P.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Somites: Formation and Role in Developing the Body Plan

Somites are blocks of mesoderm that are located on either side of the neural tube in the developing vertebrate embryo. Somites are precursor populations of cells that give rise to important structures associated with the vertebrate body plan and will eventually differentiate into dermis, skeletal muscle, cartilage, tendons, and vertebrae. Somites also determine the migratory paths of neural crest cells and of the axons of spinal nerves.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

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

Translational Developmental Biology

Translational developmental biology is a growing approach to studying biological phenomena that explicitly aims to develop medical therapies. When discussing the generation of new therapies it is often argued that they will emerge as a "translation" from "fundamental biology." Although translational research is not a new term, "translational developmental biology" has been steadily gaining popularity as discoveries in cell and developmental biology, particularly those involving stem cells, provide a basis for regenerative medicine.

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

"Generation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells without Myc from Mouse and Human Fibroblasts" (2007), by Masato Nakagawa et al.

In November 2007, Masato Nakagawa, along with a number of other researchers including Kazutoshi Takahashi, Keisuke Okita, and Shinya Yamanaka, published "Generation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells without Myc from Mouse and Human Fibroblasts" (abbreviated "Generation") in Nature. In "Generation," the authors point to dedifferentiation of somatic cells as an avenue for generating pluripotent stem cells useful for treating specific patients and diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, 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

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

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

"Formation of Genetically Mosaic Mouse Embryos and Early Development of Lethal (t12/t12)-Normal Mosaics" (1964), by Beatrice Mintz

The paper "Formation of Genetically Mosaic Mouse Embryos and Early Development of Lethal (t12/t12)-Normal Mosaics," by Beatrice Mintz, describes a technique to fuse two mouse embryos into a single embryo. This work was published in the Journal of Experimental Zoology in 1964. When two embryos are correctly joined before the 32-cell stage, the embryo will develop normally and exhibit a mosaic pattern of cells as an adult.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"Contributions to the Development of the Embryo. On the Artificial Production of One of the First Two Blastomeres, and the Later Development (Postgeneration) of the Missing Half of the Body" (1888), by Wilhelm Roux

Wilhelm Roux was an influential figure in the early history of experimental embryology. Although he originally studied medicine, he was invited to be a Privatdozentur, or unsalaried lecturer, at the Anatomical Institute in Breslau (Wroclaw), Poland, in 1879. He spent the next ten years at this institute, working his way from Dozent to associate professor and finally, in 1889, to director for his own institute, Institut für Entwicklungsgeschichte, or Institute for Developmental History and Mechanics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is a test used for prenatal diagnosis of inherited diseases, Rh incompatibility, neural tube defects, and lung maturity. Normally performed during the second trimester of a pregnancy, this invasive procedure allows the detection of health problems in the fetus as early as fifteen weeks gestation. Although amniocentesis does carry some significant risks, the medical community commonly accepts it as a safe and useful procedure.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

"Developmental Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans" (1993), by Theo Colborn, Frederick S. vom Saal, and Ana M. Soto

Developmental Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans, was published in 1993 in Environmental Health Perspectives. In the article, the authors present an account of two decades' worth of scientific research that describes the effects of certain pollutants on the health of wildlife, domestic animals, and humans, particularly when exposure takes place during embryonic growth. The term endocrine disruptor was coined in the article to describe the chemical pollutants that target the development and function of the endocrine system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications