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Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876)

Best known for his contributions to the field of embryology, Karl Ernst von Baer also pursued a variety of other areas of study including medicine, botany, zoology, and anthropology. Committing his life to scientific research, von Baer's work led to the advancement of the understanding of mammalian reproduction, development, and organ functioning. His embryological discoveries ultimately led him to a view of development that supported epigenesis and refuted long-held thinking about preformation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Eduard Friedrich Wilhelm Pflüger (1829-1910)

Eduard Friedrich Wilhelm Pflüger was a physiologist known for his research on respiration, the respiratory quotient, experimenting on the effects of electricity on muscles and nerves, and his study of the ovaries and egg development. His experiments on how the gravitational orientation of frog eggs affects their cleavage plane inspired embryologists such as Wilhelm Roux and Gustav Born to conduct their own experiments using frog eggs.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) are cells derived from non-pluripotent cells, such as adult somatic cells, that are genetically manipulated so as to return to an undifferentiated, pluripotent state. Research on iPSCs, initiated by Shinya Yamanaka in 2006 and extended by James Thompson in 2007, has so far revealed the same properties as embryonic stem cells (ESCs), making their discovery potentially very beneficial for scientists and ethicists alike.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

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

Chorionic Villus Sampling

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a test used for prenatal diagnosis. Safe to perform at an earlier stage in pregnancy than amniocentesis, CVS is another invasive prenatal diagnostic test that can be performed as early as ten weeks after the woman's last menstrual cycle. While this test does carry some risks, it is generally very effective at predicting heritable diseases during or soon after the embryonic stage of development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

The Y-Chromosome in Animals

The Y-chromosome is one of a pair of chromosomes that determine the genetic sex of individuals in mammals, some insects, and some plants. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the development of new microscopic and molecular techniques, including DNA sequencing, enabled scientists to confirm the hypothesis that chromosomes determine the sex of developing organisms. In an adult organism, the genes on the Y-chromosome help produce the male gamete, the sperm cell. Beginning in the 1980s, many studies of human populations used the Y-chromosome gene sequences to trace paternal lineages.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Theories

Milan Vuitch (1915–1993)

Milan Vuitch was an abortion provider in the twentieth century, who performed thousands of abortions in Washington, DC, at a time when abortions were legal only if they preserved the life or health of the pregnant woman. Vuitch was a frequent critic of Washington DC’s anti-abortion law and was arrested multiple times for providing abortions that were not considered necessary to preserve the pregnant woman’s life. After several arrests, Vuitch challenged the law under which he had been arrested, and his case made its way to the Supreme Court in Vuitch v. United States.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Biological Lectures Delivered at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole

The Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, began in 1888 with one building housing researchers upstairs and students in a shared lab and lecture space downstairs. For the first two years, instruction took the form of general lectures covering a range of topics in zoology. In addition, the trustees offered some public lectures in Boston to raise funds for the lab.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Outreach

"Development, Plasticity and Evolution of Butterfly Eyespot Patterns" (1996), by Paul M. Brakefield et al.

Paul M. Brakefield and his research team in Leiden, the Netherlands, examined the development, plasticity, and evolution of butterfly eyespot patterns, and published their findings in Nature in 1996. Eyespots are eye-shaped color patterns that appear on the wings of some butterflies and birds as well as on the skin of some fish and reptiles. In butterflies, such as the peacock butterfly Aglais, the eyespots resemble the eyes of birds and help butterflies deter potential predators.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Thomas Raphael Verny (1936– )

During the twentieth century, Thomas Raphael Verny studied the way that environment affects a developing fetus’s character and psychological development. Verny studied the concept of memory before birth and covered both the prenatal and perinatal periods, meaning the time the fetus is in the womb and the weeks immediately before or after birth, respectively. During those times, Verny claimed that patterns of maternal attitudes and experiences, such as affection and stress-related emotions, impact the development of the child.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Camillo Golgi's Black Reaction for Staining Neurons

In 1873 Italy, Camillo Golgi created the black reaction technique, which enabled scientists to stain and view the structure of neurons, the specialized cells that compose the nervous system. During the nineteenth century, scientists were studying cells and proposed cell theory, which describes the basic characteristics of cells as fundamental units of life. However, cell theory struggled to explain neurons as they are specialized cells and more complex in structure than cells of other tissues.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

1901 Arizona Comstock Law

In 1901, the Arizona Territorial Legislature codified territorial law that illegalized advertising, causing, or performing abortions anywhere in Arizona. The 1901 code, in conjunction with the federal Comstock Act, regulated the advertisement and accessibility of abortion services and contraceptives in Arizona. The Federal Comstock Act of 1873 had illegalized the distribution of material on contraceptives and abortions through the US Postal Services by labeling contraceptive and abortive material as obscene.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Hox Genes and the Evolution of Vertebrate Axial Morphology Experiment (1995)

In 1995, researchers Ann Burke, Craig Nelson, Bruce Morgan, and Cliff Tabin in the US studied the genes that regulate the construction of vertebra in developing chick and mouse embryos, they showed similar patterns of gene regulation across both species, and they concluded that those patterns were inherited from an ancestor common to all vertebrate animals. The group analyzed the head-to-tail (anterior-posterior) axial development of vertebrates, as the anterior-posterior axis showed variation between species over the course of evolutionary time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Infant Incubator in Europe (1860-1890)

In the nineteenth century, obstetricians in Europe began to construct devices to incubate infants in increasingly controlled environments. The infant incubator is a medical device that maintains stable conditions and a germ free environment for premature infants born before the thirty-seventh week of pregnancy. Records show that physicians had used infant incubators since 1835. However, Jean-Louis-Paul Denuce, a physician who worked in Bordeaux, France, first published about incubator technology in 1857.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Acid Dissolution of Fossil Dinosaur Eggs

Acid dissolution is a technique of removing a fossil from the surrounding rock matrix in which it is encased by dissolving that matrix with acid. Fossilized bone, though strong enough to be preserved for thousands or millions of years, is often more delicate than rock. Once a fossil is discovered, scientists must remove the fossil from its surroundings without damaging the fossil itself.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Gene Transfer Strategy Used to Treat Tay - Sachs Disease (2005), by Sabata Martino’s Research Group

In the early 2000s, Sabata Martino and a team of researchers in Italy and Germany showed that they could reduce the symptoms of Tay-Sachs in afflicted mice by injecting them with a virus that infected their cells with a gene they lacked. Tay-Sachs disease is a fatal degenerative disorder that occurs in infants and causes rapid motor and mental impairment, leading to death at the ages of three to five. In gene therapy, researchers insert normal genes into cells that have missing or defective genes in order to correct genetic disorders.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (2007), by Michael J. Sandel

The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering, hereafter referred to as The Case against Perfection, written by Michael J. Sandel, builds on a short essay featured in The Atlantic Monthly magazine in 2004. Three years later, Sandel transformed his article into a book, keeping the same title but expanding upon his personal critique of genetic engineering. The purpose of Sandel's book is to articulate the sources of what he considers to be widespread public unease related to genetic engineering that changes the course of natural development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Ethics

Ziegler Wax Embryo Models

Three-dimensional anatomical models have long been essential to the learning of science and lend a sense of "control" to those practicing in the field. As the development of embryology grew in importance during the late 1800s, so did the need for models to show intricate details of embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Radioimmunoassay

Radioimmunoassay (RIA) is a technique in which researchers use radioactive isotopes as traceable tags to quantify specific biochemical substances from blood samples. Rosalyn Yalow and Solomon Berson developed the method in the 1950s while working at the Bronx Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in New York City, New York. RIA requires small samples of blood, yet it is extremely sensitive to minute quantities of biological molecules within the sample. The use of RIA improved the accuracy of many kinds of medical diagnoses, and it influenced hormone and immune research around the world.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

"The Adaptive Significance of Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination in a Reptile" (2008), by Daniel Warner and Richard Shine

In 2008 researchers Daniel Warner and Richard Shine tested the Charnov-Bull model by conducting experiments on the Jacky dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus), in Australia. Their results showed that temperature-dependent sex determination(TSD) evolved in this species as an adaptation to fluctuating environmental temperatures. The Charnov-Bull model, proposed by Eric Charnov and James Bull in 1977, described the evolution of TSD, although the model was, for many years, untested.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

William Harvey (1578-1657)

Renowned physician and scientist William Harvey is best known for his accurate description of how blood circulates through the body. While his published work on the circulation of blood is considered the most important of his academic life, Harvey also made significant contributions to embryology with the publication of his book Exercitationes de Generatione Animalium in 1651. In this book he established several theories that would set the stage for modern embryology and addressed many embryological issues including conception, embryogenesis, and spontaneous generation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Edward Donnall Thomas (1920-2012)

Edward Donnall Thomas, an American physician and scientist, gained recognition in the scientific community for conducting the first bone marrow transplant, a pioneering form of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Bone marrow transplants are considered to be the first successful example of tissue engineering, a field within regenerative medicine that uses hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) as a vehicle for treatment. Prior to Thomas's groundbreaking work, most blood-borne diseases, including certain inherited and autoimmune diseases, were considered lethal.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Howard Wilber Jones Jr.

Howard Wilber Jones Jr. and his wife, Georgeanna Seegar Jones, developed a method of in vitro fertilization and helped create the first baby in the US using that method. Though the first in vitro baby was born in England in 1978, Jones and his wife's contribution allowed for the birth of Elizabeth Carr on 28 December 1981. Jones, a gynecologist and an obstetrician, researched human reproduction for most of his life.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction