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Joseph Needham (1900-1995)

Joseph Needham was an embryologist and biochemist who is most noted in science for his studies on induction in developing embryos. Needham worked with Conrad Hal Waddington to attempt to identify the compound responsible for the organizer's activity. Although he was not successful in discovering the chemical, he and Waddington learned much about the organizer. Needham was a meticulous writer, writing reviews and books about contemporary research.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

“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

"The Role of Maternal Mitochondria during Oogenesis, Fertilization and Embryogenesis" (2002), by James M. Cummins

James M Cummins published 'The Role of Maternal Mitochondria during Oogenesis, Fertilization and Embryogenesis' 30 January 2002 in Reproductive BioMedicine Online. In the article, Cummins examines the role of the energy producing cytoplasmic particles, or organelles called mitochondria. Humans inherit mitochondria from their mothers, and mechanisms have evolved to eliminate sperm mitochondria in early embryonic development. Mitochondria contain their own DNA (mtDNA) separate from nuclear DNA (nDNA).

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Wilhelm August Oscar Hertwig (1849-1922)

Wilhelm August Oscar Hertwig contributed to embryology through his studies of cells in development and his discovery that only one spermatozoon is necessary to fertilize an egg. He was born 21 April 1849 to Elise Trapp and Carl Hertwig in Hessen, Germany. After his brother Richard was born the family moved to Muhlhausen in Thuringen where the boys were educated. The two brothers later attended the university in Jena from 1868 to 1888 and studied under Ernst Haeckel, who later convinced Hertwig to leave chemistry and pursue medicine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Karl Wilhelm Theodor Richard von Hertwig (1850-1937)

Karl Wilhelm Theodor Richard von Hertwig is an important figure in the history of embryology for his contributions of artificial hybridization of sea urchin eggs and the formulation of his coelom theory. He was born 23 September 1850 in Friedelberg, Germany, to Elise Trapp and Carl Hertwig. Richard and his older brother Oscar began their studies at Jena under the direction of Ernst Haeckel from 1868 to 1871. In 1872 Hertwig became a lecturer in zoology at Jena while Oscar lectured in anatomy and embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Clifford Grobstein (1916-1998)

Clifford Grobstein was a traditional, influential, and highly innovative biologist of the mid-twentieth century, gifted with many character facets and pragmatic talents. His early adulthood passion of linking classical embryology with developmental anatomy and medicine was joined by his later pursuit of combining research ethics and science education with public policy.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Sperm Capacitation

Sperm capacitation refers to the physiological changes spermatozoa must undergo in order to have the ability to penetrate and fertilize an egg. This term was first coined in 1952 by Colin Russell Austin based on independent studies conducted by both Austin himself as well as Min Chueh Chang in 1951. Since the initial reports and emergence of the term, the details of the process have been more clearly elucidated due to technological advancements.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Morphogenesis: An Essay on Development (1952), by John Tyler Bonner

Throughout his long and fruitful career John Tyler Bonner has made great strides in understanding basic issues of embryology and developmental-evolutionary biology. Indeed, Bonner's work on morphogenesis highlighted synergies between development and evolution long before "evo-devo" became a part of the scientific lingua franca. Princeton University Press published his first book, Morphogenesis: An Essay on Development, in 1952. In his autobiography Lives of a Biologist, Bonner described his motivations for writing Morphogenesis as a book about developmental biology.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

US Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program

In 1996, the US Congress mandated that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) create and regulate the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. The program tests industrial and agricultural chemicals for hormonal impacts in humans and in wildlife that may disrupt organisms' endocrine systems. The endocrine system regulates the release of small amounts of chemical substances called hormones to keep the body functioning normally.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Legal, Ethics

Evangelium Vitae (1995), by Pope John Paul II

The encyclical entitled "Evangelium Vitae," meaning "The Gospel of Life," was promulgated on 25 March 1995 by Pope John Paul II in Rome, Italy. The document was written to reiterate the view of the Roman Catholic Church on the value of life and to warn against violating the sanctity of life. The document focuses on right to life issues including abortion, birth control, and euthanasia, but also touches on other concepts relevant to embryology, such as contraception, in vitro fertilization, sterilization, embryonic stem cell research, and fetal experimentation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion, Reproduction

Environment and Birth Defects (1973), by James G. Wilson

Environment and Birth Defects by James Graves Wilson in the US was published in 1973. The book summarized information on the causes of malformations in newborns and aimed to acquaint policy makers with Wilson's suggestions for predicting the risks of environmental causes of birth defects, called teratogens. Wilson also provided six principles for researching teratogens, a framework revised from his 1959 article Experimental Studies on Congenital Malformations. The book has ten chapters.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You (2015), by the British Broadcasting Corporation and The Open University

In 2015, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) partnered with The Open University to produce the three-part documentary series, Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You. Michael Mosley, a British television producer and journalist, hosts the documentary. Along with narrating animated scenes of a growing fetus in the womb, Mosley meets with individuals around the world who experienced mutations that can arise in the womb. Introduced over the course of the three episodes, several people share their personal stories of how their bodies did not develop correctly prior to birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"In vitro Experiments on the Effects of Mouse Sarcomas 180 and 37 on the Spinal and Sympathetic Ganglia of the Chick Embryo" (1954), by Rita Levi-Montalcini, Viktor Hamburger, and Hertha Meyer

"In vitro Experiments on the Effects of Mouse Sarcomas 180 and 37 on the Spinal and Sympathetic Ganglia of the Chick Embryo" were experiments conducted by Rita Levi-Montalcini in conjunction with Viktor Hamburger and Hertha Meyer and published in Cancer Research in 1954. In this series of experiments, conducted at the University of Brazil, Levi-Montalcini demonstrated increased nerve growth by introducing specific tumors (sarcomas) to chick ganglia. Ganglia are clusters of nerve cells, from which nerve fibers emerge.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"Genetic Control of Biochemical Reactions in Neurospora" (1941), by George W. Beadle and Edward L. Tatum

George Wells Beadle and Edward Lawrie Tatum's 1941 article Genetic Control of Biochemical Reactions in Neurospora detailed their experiments on how genes regulated chemical reactions, and how the chemical reactions in turn affected development in the organism. Beadle and Tatum experimented on Neurospora, a type of bread mold, and they concluded that mutations to genes affected the enzymes of organisms, a result that biologists later generalized to proteins, not just enzymes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Epigenetic Landscape

The epigenetic landscape is a concept representing embryonic development. It was proposed by Conrad Hal Waddington to illustrate the various developmental pathways a cell might take toward differentiation. The epigenetic landscape integrates the connected concepts of competence, induction, and regulative abilities of the genes into a single model designed to explain cellular differentiation, a long standing problem in embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"Experimental Studies on Congenital Malformations" (1959), by James G. Wilson

The article Experimental Studies on Congenital Malformations was published in the Journal of Chronic Diseases in 1959. The author, James G. Wilson, studied embryos and birth defects at the University of Florida Medical School in Gainesville, Florida. In his article, Wilson reviewed experiments on birds and mammals from the previous forty years to provide general principles and guidelines in the study of birth defects and teratogens, which are things that cause birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Viktor Hamburger's Study of Central-Peripheral Relations in the Development of Nervous System

An important question throughout the history of embryology is whether the formation of a biological structure is predetermined or shaped by its environment. If both intrinsic and environmental controls occur, how exactly do the two processes coordinate in crafting specific forms and functions? When Viktor Hamburger started his PhD study in embryology in the 1920s, few neuroembryologists were investigating how the central neurons innervate peripheral organs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Gunther von Hagens' Plastination Technique

Plastination is a technique for preserving tissues, organs, and whole bodies for medical purposes and public display. Gunther von Hagens invented a form of the method in 1977 at Heidelberg University in Heidelberg, Germany after observing medical students struggle working with cadavers that quickly decomposed. Von Hagens' body models, referred to as plastinates, have since become widely used educational tools not only for those studying anatomy and medicine, but also for the general public.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Boris Ephrussi (1901-1979)

Boris Ephrussi studied fruit flies, yeast, and mouse genetics and development while working in France and the US during the twentieth century. In yeast, Ephrussi studied how mutations in the cytoplasm persisted across generations. In mice he studied the genetics of hybrids and the development of cancer. Working with George Wells Beadle on the causes of different eye colors in fruit flies, Ephrussi's research helped establish the one-gene-one-enzyme hypothesis. Ephrussi helped create new embryological techniques and contributed the theories of genetics and development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation (1979-1984)

In the legal case In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation of the early 1980s, US military veterans of the Vietnam War sued the US chemical companies that had produced the herbicide Agent Orange, and those companies settled with US veterans out of court. Agent Orange contains dioxin, a chemical later shown to disrupt the hormone system of the body and to cause cancer. As veterans returned to the US from Vietnam, scientists further confirmed that exposure to Agent Orange caused a variety of cancers in veterans and developmental problems in the veterans' children.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

The Cabinet of Frederik Ruysch

Frederik Ruysch's cabinet of curiosities, commonly referred to simply as the Cabinet, was a museum Ruysch created in the Netherlands in the late 160ss. The Cabinet filled a series of small houses that Ruysch rented in Amsterdam and contained over 2,000 specimens, including preserved fetuses and infants. The collection remained in Amsterdam until it was purchased by Tsar Peter the Great of Russia in 1717 and transferred to St. Petersburg, Russia.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Outreach

George W. Beadle's One Gene-One Enzyme Hypothesis

The one gene-one enzyme hypothesis, proposed by George Wells Beadle in the US in 1941, is the theory that each gene directly produces a single enzyme, which consequently affects an individual step in a metabolic pathway. In 1941, Beadle demonstrated that one gene in a fruit fly controlled a single, specific chemical reaction in the fruit fly, which one enzyme controlled.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories