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Methylmercury and Human Embryonic Development

Methylmercury (MeHg) is an organic form of mercury that can damage the developing brains of human fetuses. Women who consume methylmercury during pregnancy can bear children who have neurological issues because methylmercury has toxic effects on the nervous system during embryonic development. During the third week of gestation, the human nervous system begins to form in the embryo. During this gestational period, the embryo's nervous system is particularly susceptible to the influence of neurotoxins like methylmercury that can result in abnormalities.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Berthold Karl Hölldobler (1936– )

Berthold Karl Hölldobler studied social insects like ants in Europe and the US during the twentieth and early twenty-first century. He focused on the social behavior of ants, the evolutionary origins of social insects, and the way ants use chemicals to communicate with each other. Hölldobler’s research reached popular audiences through his co-authored Pulitzer Prize winning book The Ants and through an award winning nature documentary called Ameisen: Die heimliche Weltmacht (Ants: Nature’s Secret Power).

Format: Articles

Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)

In nineteenth century Great Britain, Thomas Henry Huxley proposed connections between the development of organisms and their evolutionary histories, critiqued previously held concepts of homology, and promoted Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Many called him Darwin's Bulldog. Huxley helped professionalize and redefine British science. He wrote about philosophy, religion, and social issues, and researched and theorized in many biological fields.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Baby Makers (2012)

In 2012, the production company Waddell Media Production released the documentary The Baby Makers. The four-part series, directed and produced by Edel O’Mahony, follows multiple couples in Northern Ireland struggling with infertility problems as they utilize different treatments such as in vitro fertilization, or IVF, egg donation, and egg freezing. IVF is a procedure in which a woman’s egg is fertilized by a sperm outside of her body. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, a fertility doctor places the fertilized egg back into the woman’s uterus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Essay: Homology

Homology is a central concept of comparative and evolutionary biology, referring to the presence of the same bodily parts (e.g., morphological structures) in different species. The existence of homologies is explained by common ancestry, and according to modern definitions of homology, two structures in different species are homologous if they are derived from the same structure in the common ancestor.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Processes

Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia (1921–1996)

Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia studied fetal health in Uruguay during the second half of the twentieth century. Caldeyro-Barcia developed Montevideo units, which are used to quantify intrauterine pressure, or the force of contractions during labor. Intrauterine pressure is a useful measure of the progression of labor and the health of a fetus.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Julia Barlow Platt's Embryological Observations on Salamanders' Cartilage (1893)

In 1893, Julia Barlow Platt published her research on the origins of cartilage in the developing head of the common mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) embryo. The mudpuppy is an aquatic salamander commonly used by embryologists because its large embryonic cells and nuclei are easy to see. Platt followed the paths of cells in developing mudpuppy embryos to see how embryonic cells migrated during the formation of the head. With her research, Platt challenged then current theories about germ layers, the types of cells in an early embryo that develop into adult cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Theories, Processes

Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Its Treatment with Artificial Surfactant

Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, previously called hyaline membrane disease, is a respiratory disease affecting premature newborns. Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome involves shallow breathing, pauses between breaths that last a few seconds, or apnea, and a bluish tinge to the infant’s skin. The syndrome occurs when microscopic sacs called alveoli in infant lungs do not produce surfactant, a liquid that coats the inside of the lungs and helps them inflate during breathing.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

“Diethylstilbestrol in the Prevention and Treatment of Complications of Pregnancy” (1948), by Olive Watkins Smith

In 1948, Olive Watkins Smith published 'Diethylstilbestrol in the Prevention and Treatment of Complications of Pregnancy' in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In 632 women treated with diethylstilbestrol, Smith demonstrated that the drug stimulated the production of progesterone, a hormone that regulates the uterine condition during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Norman Haire (1892-1952)

Norman Haire was a physician who advocated for eugenics, which is the betterment of human population by promoting positive traits, and birth control rights in the twentieth century in both Australia and the UK. In the UK, Haire joined the Malthusian League, a contraception advocacy organization, and helped the League open the first physician-supervised birth control clinic, called Walworth Women’s Welfare Centre in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Shoukhrat Mitalipov and Masahito Tachibana’s Mitochondrial Gene Replacement in Primate Offspring and Embryonic Stem Cells (2009)

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Masahito Tachibana, and their team of researchers replaced the mitochondrial genes of primate embryonic stem cells via spindle transfer. Spindle replacement, also called spindle transfer, is the process of removing the genetic material found in the nucleus of one egg cell, or oocyte, and placing it in another egg that had its nucleus removed. Mitochondria are organelles found in all cells and contain some of the cell’s genetic material. Mutations in the mitochondrial DNA can lead to neurodegenerative and muscle diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Theodor Heinrich Boveri (1862-1915)

Theodor Boveri investigated the mechanisms of heredity. He developed the chromosomal theory of inheritance and the idea of chromosomal individuality. Boveri sought to provide a comprehensive explanation for the hereditary role and behavior of chromosomes. He hoped that his experiments would also help to distinguish the roles of the nucleus and the cytoplasm in embryogenesis. Boveri was particularly interested in how offspring are shaped by the attributes of their parents.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Central Nervous System Development

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical, neurological, behavioral, and learning defects collectively grouped under the heading Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is part of this group and was first defined in 1973 as a condition characterized by pre- and postnatal growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities and defects of the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is particularly vulnerable to the effects of ethanol during prenatal development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

The Discovery of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The term Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was first published in 1973 in an article published in the British medical journal The Lancet. In that article, a group of pediatricians and psychiatrists at the University of Washington Medical School helped to define the morphological defects and developmental delays that can affect children born to alcoholic mothers. Those observations include pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies, minor facial abnormalities, and damage to the developing brain that can result in behavioral, learning, and cognitive abnormalities.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

The Miracle of Life (1983), by NOVA

The most-watched NOVA documentary ever made and a revolution in the understanding of human development, The Miracle of Life (abbreviated Life) employs the most current developments in endoscopic and microscopic technology to capture the intricacies of human development. Narrated by Anita Sangiolo and vividly illustrating the most minute and hard-to-reach parts and processes of living systems, this film truly flexes the muscles of the newest photographic technology of its time, with esteemed photographer Lennart Nilsson behind the camera.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction

Essay: The Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate

In 1830, a dispute erupted in the halls of lÕAcad mie des Sciences in Paris between the two most prominent anatomists of the nineteenth century. Georges Cuvier and tienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, once friends and colleagues at the Paris Museum, became arch rivals after this historical episode. Like many important disputes in the history of science, this debate echoes several points of contrasts between the two thinkers.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Theories

"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

"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

Craig C. Mello (1960- )

Craig C. Mello is an American developmental biologist and Nobel Laureate, who helped discover RNA interference (RNAi). Along with his colleague Andrew Fire, he developed gene knockouts using RNAi. In 006 Mello won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contribution. Mello also contributed to developmental biology, focusing on gene regulation, cell signaling, cleavage formation, germline determination, cell migration, cell fate differentiation, and morphogenesis.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"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

Leo Loeb (1869-1959)

Leo Loeb developed an experimental approach to studying cancer and pioneered techniques for tissue culture and in vitro tissue transplantation which impacted early-to-mid twentieth century experimental embryology. Loeb received his medical degree from the University of Zurich in 1897. As part of his doctorate, he completed a thesis on the outcomes of tissue transplantation in guinea pigs. Loeb's thesis inspired a life-long interest in tissue transplantation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Epithelium

Frederik Ruysch, working in the Netherlands, introduced the term epithelia in the third volume of his Thesaurus Anatomicus in 1703. Ruysch created the term from the Greek epi, which means on top of, and thele, which means nipple, to describe the type of tissue he found when dissecting the lip of a cadaver. In the mid nineteenth century, anatomist Albrecht von Haller adopted the word epithelium, designating Ruysch's original terminology as the plural version. In modern science, epithelium is a type of animal tissue in which cells are packed into neatly arranged sheets.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Processes

"Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells" (2005), by Leon Kass and the President’s Council on Bioethics

Human pluripotent stem cells are valued for their potential to form numerous specialized cells and for their longevity. In the US, where a portion of the population is opposed to destruction of human embryos to obtain stem cells, what avenues are open to scientists for obtaining pluripotent cells that do not offend the moral sensibilities of a significant number of citizens?

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Ethics

Hans Spemann (1869-1941)

Hans Spemann was an experimental embryologist best known for his transplantation studies and as the originator of the "organizer" concept. One of his earliest experiments involved constricting the blastomeres of a fertilized salamander egg with a noose of fine baby hair, resulting in a partially double embryo with two heads and one tail.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)

Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) can occur in children whose mothers contracted the rubella virus, sometimes called German measles, during pregnancy. Depending on the gestational period when the mother contracts rubella, an infant born with CRS may be unaffected by the virus or it may have severe developmental defects. The most severe effects of the virus on fetal development occur when the mother contracts rubella between conception and the first trimester.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders