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Germ Layers

A germ layer is a group of cells in an embryo that interact with each other as the embryo develops and contribute to the formation of all organs and tissues. All animals, except perhaps sponges, form two or three germ layers. The germ layers develop early in embryonic life, through the process of gastrulation. During gastrulation, a hollow cluster of cells called a blastula reorganizes into two primary germ layers: an inner layer, called endoderm, and an outer layer, called ectoderm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Processes

Mesoderm

Mesoderm is one of the three germ layers, groups of cells that interact early during the embryonic life of animals and from which organs and tissues form. As organs form, a process called organogenesis, mesoderm interacts with endoderm and ectoderm to give rise to the digestive tract, the heart and skeletal muscles, red blood cells, and the tubules of the kidneys, as well as a type of connective tissue called mesenchyme. All animals that have only one plane of symmetry through the body, called bilateral symmetry, form three germ layers.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

The Development of Mifepristone for Use in Medication Abortions

In the 1980s, researchers at the pharmaceutical company Roussel-Uclaf in Paris, France, helped develop a biological compound called mifepristone. When a woman takes it, mifepristone interferes with the function of hormones involved in pregnancy and it can therefore be used to terminate pregnancies. In 2000, the US Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, also called RU 486, as part of a treatment to induce abortions using drugs instead of surgery, a method called medication abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction

“A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation” (1993), by Dean H. Hamer and Charles A. Thomas.

In 1993, Dean H. Hamer and colleagues in the US published results from their research that indicated that men with speicifc genes were more likely to be homosexual than were men without those genes. The study hypothesized that some X chromosomes contain a gene, Xq28, that increases the likelihood of an individual to be homosexual. Prior to those results, researchers had argued that the cause of homosexuality was environmental and that homosexuality could be altered or reversed. Hamer’s research suggested a possible genetic cause of homosexuality.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"Pregnancy Complicating Diabetes" (1949), by Priscilla White

In 1949, Priscilla White published Pregnancy Complicating Diabetes, which described the results and implications of a fifteen-year study about pregnant diabetic women. Published in the American Journal of Medicine, the article details possible causes of and ways to prevent the high fetal mortality rate associated with pregnant diabetic women. Diabetes is a disease in which the body's ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, and it can be particularly dangerous during pregnancies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Carl Gottfried Hartman (1879-1968)

Carl Gottfried Hartman researched the reproductive physiology of opossums and rhesus monkeys. He was the first to extensively study the embryology and physiology of reproduction in opossums when little was known about this mammal. Hartman worked in Texas where opossums, the only marsupial that lives in North America, were abundant. The female opossum delivers her fetal opossums in her pouch, where one can easily observe their development. After studying opossums for thirteen years, Hartman investigated the reproductive physiology of rhesus monkeys, also known as macaques.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen (1857-1927)

Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen studied plants and helped found the field of genetics, contributing methods and concepts to the study of heredity around the turn of the twentieth century in Denmark. His experiments on heredity and variation in plants influenced the methods and techniques of geneticists, and his distinction between the genotype of an organism-its hereditary disposition-and its phenotype-its observable characteristics-remains at the core of contemporary biology. Johannsen criticized biological explanations that relied on concepts such as vitalism and teleology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

William Thornton Mustard (1914-1987)

William Thornton Mustard was a surgeon in Canada during the twentieth century who developed surgical techniques to treat children who had congenital heart defects. Mustard has two surgeries named after him, both of which he helped to develop. The first of these surgeries replaces damaged or paralyzed muscles in individuals who have polio, a virus that can cause paralysis. The other technique corrects a condition called the transposition of the great arteries (TGA) that is noticed at birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Disorders, Disorders

Laparoscopy

Laparoscopy, a subfield of endoscopy, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to examine and operate on the internal organs of the abdomen through a small incision in the abdominal wall. The term "laparoscopy" is derived from two Greek words: laparo, meaning the soft space between hips and ribs, and skopie, meaning to examine. Today laparoscopy has broad clinical applications including for diagnosis, fertility procedures, visual representation, and surgery.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine was created by Maurice Hilleman in 1971 at the Merck Institute of Therapeutic Research, a pharmaceutical company in West Point, Pennsylvania. It combined three separate vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella, common and sometimes fatal diseases. Measles causes a red skin rash and severe fevers that can be fatal. Mumps causes fever and swelling of the salivary glands in the mouth and jaw, while rubella causes milder fevers and skin rashes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Jane Maienschein (1950- )

Jane Maienschein is the daughter of Joyce Kylander and Fred Maienschein, and was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on 23 September 1950. She attended MIT as a freshman and then transferred to Yale University in 1969 when Yale decided to admit women undergraduates. In 1972 she graduated with an honors degree in History, the Arts, and Letters having written a thesis on the history of science. She then attended Indiana University and studied with historian of embryology Frederick B.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

The Mechanistic Conception of Life (1912), by Jacques Loeb

Jacques Loeb published The Mechanistic Conception of Life in 1912. Loeb's goal for the book was to further disseminate his explanations of organic processes, such as embryonic development and organisms orientations to their environments, which relied on physics and chemistry. Loeb also wanted to provide an alternative explanatory framework to vitalism and what he called romantic evolutionism, then both widespread.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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

Jacques Loeb (1859-1924)

Jacques Loeb experimented on embryos in Europe and the United States at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. Among the first to study embryos through experimentation, Loeb helped found the new field of experimental embryology. Notably, Loeb showed scientists how to create artificial parthenogenesis, thus refuting the idea that spermatozoa alone were necessary to develop eggs into embryos and confirming the idea that the chemical constitution of embryos environment affected their development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Sidney Q. Cohlan (1915-1999)

Sidney Q. Cohlan studied birth defects in the US during the twentieth century. Cohlan helped to discover that if a pregnant woman ate too much vitamin A her fetus faced a higher than normal risk of teratogenic effects, such as cleft palate. A teratogen is a substance that causes malformation of a developing organism. Cohlan also identified the teratogenic effects of several other substances including a lack of normal magnesium and prenatal exposure to the antibiotic tetracycline.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Bernard Sachs (1858-1944)

Bernard Sachs studied nervous system disorders in children in the
United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the
late 1880s, Sachs described the fatal genetic neurological disorder
called amaurotic family idiocy, later renamed Tay-Sachs disease. The
disorder degrades motor skills as well as mental abilities in
affected individuals. The expected lifespan of a child with
Tay-Sachs is three to five years. In addition to working on
Tay-Sachs disease, Sachs described other childhood neurological and

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Beatrice Mintz (1921- )

Beatrice Mintz is a brilliant researcher who has developed techniques essential for many aspects of research on mouse development. She produced the first successful mouse chimeras and meticulously characterized their traits. She has worked with various cancers and produced viable mice from the cells of a teratoma. Mintz participated in the development of transgenic mice by the incorporation of foreign DNA into a mouse genome.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Oswald Theodore Avery (1877-1955)

Oswald Theodore Avery studied strains of pneumococcus of the genus Streptococcus in the US in the first half of the twentieth century. This bacterium causes pneumonia, a common cause of death at the turn of the twentieth century. In a 1944 paper, Avery demonstrated with colleagues Colin Munro MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty that deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, instead of protein, formed the material of heritable transformation in bacteria. Avery helped untangle some of the relationships between genes and developmental processes.

Subject: People

Green Fluorescent Protein

Green fluorescent protein (GFP) is a protein in the jellyfish Aequorea Victoria that exhibits green fluorescence when exposed to light. The protein has 238 amino acids, three of them (Numbers 65 to 67) form a structure that emits visible green fluorescent light. In the jellyfish, GFP interacts with another protein, called aequorin, which emits blue light when added with calcium. Biologists use GFP to study cells in embryos and fetuses during developmental processes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

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

Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) Gene

The Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) gene was identified in 1989 by geneticist Lap-Chee Tsui and his research team as the gene associated with cystic fibrosis (CF). Tsui's research pinpointed the gene, some mutations to which cause CF, and it revealed the underlying disease mechanism. The CFTR gene encodes a protein in the cell membrane in epithelial tissues and affects multiple organ systems in the human body. Mutations in the CFTR gene cause dysfunctional regulation of cell electrolytes and water content.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Girolamo Fabrici (1537-1619)

Girolamo Fabrici, known as Hieronymus Fabricius in Latin, was given the surname Aquapendente from the city where he was born, near Orvieto, Italy. Born in 1533, Fabrici was the eldest son of a respected noble family, whose coat of arms appears as an illustration in the title page of Fabrici's book on embryology, De formato foetu. Little is known of Fabrici's parents. His father is recorded as Fabricio, and Fabrici is said to have been named for his paternal grandfather.

Format: Articles

Subject: People