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Benjamin Harrison Willier (1890-1972)

Benjamin Harrison Willier is considered one of the most versatile embryologists to have ever practiced in the US. His research spanned most of the twentieth century, a time when the field of embryology evolved from being a purely descriptive pursuit to one of experimental research, to that of incorporating molecular biology into the research lab. Willier was born on 2 November 1890 near Weston, Ohio to Mary Alice Ricard. He spent his childhood doing farming chores and running the farm while his father, David Willier worked as a banker.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"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

"Male Development of Chromosomally Female Mice Transgenic for Sry gene" (1991), by Peter Koopman, et al.

Early 1990s research conducted by Peter Koopman, John Gubbay, Nigel Vivian, Peter Goodfellow, and Robin Lovell-Badge, showed that chromosomally female (XX) mice embryos can develop as male with the addition of a genetic fragment from the Y chromosome of male mice. The genetic fragment contained a segment of the mouse Sry gene, which is analogous to the human SRY gene. The researchers sought to identify Sry gene as the gene that produced the testis determining factor protein (Tdf protein in mice or TDF protein in humans), which initiates the formation of testis.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Santiago Felipe Ramon y Cajal (1852-1934)

Santiago Felipe Ramon y Cajal investigated brains in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Spain. He identified and individuated many components of the brain, including the neuron and the axon. He used chick embryos instead of adult animals, then customary in brain research, to study the development and physiology of the cerebellum, spinal cord, and retina. Ramon y Cajal received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1906, along with Camillo Golgi, for his work on the structure of the nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Leuprorelin as a Treatment for Endometriosis

Leuprolide acetate, or leuprorelin, is a manufactured drug that has been prescribed as a treatment for endometriosis, a medical condition in which body tissue that typically lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus, since 1989. Leuprorelin is a modified version of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone, a type of hormone that helps regulate the female menstrual cycle. The drug inhibits the production of estrogen, a female sex hormone that enables endometrial gland growth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

HeLa Cell Line

The HeLa cell line was the first immortal human cell line that George Otto Gey, Margaret Gey, and Mary Kucibek first isolated from Henrietta Lacks and developed at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951. An immortal human cell line is a cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the human from which they originated. Scientists use immortal human cell lines in their research to investigate how cells function in humans.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Experiments, People, Ethics

"Veterans and Agent Orange Update 1996: Summary and Research Highlights" by the US National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine

In March 1996, the National Academy of Sciences of the United States released 'Veterans and Agent Orange Update 1996: Summary and Research Highlights,' which summarized research on the health effects of Agent Orange and other herbicides used in the Vietnam War. In their 1996 report, the National Academy connects Agent Orange exposure with two health conditions: spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spinal cord develops improperly, and peripheral neuropathy, a nervous system condition in which the peripheral nerves are damaged.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Agent Orange as a Cause of Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the spines of developing fetuses and infants, and research in the 20th century indicated that chemicals in the herbicide Agent Orange likely lead to the birth defect. People with spina bifida can have nerve damage, paralysis, and mental disabilities. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the US military employed Agent Orange and other herbicides to destroy enemy crops and forest cover until 1970.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Cornelia Isabella Bargmann (1961- )

Cornelia Isabella Bargmann studied the relationship between genes, neural circuits, and behavior in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the US. Bargmann’s research focused on how the sense of smell (olfaction) in the nematode word Caenorhabditis elegans. She provided a model to study how neural circuits develop and function in the human brain, as the genetic regulatory pathways are similar.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Matthias Jacob Schleiden (1804–1881)

Matthias Jacob Schleiden helped develop the cell theory in Germany during the nineteenth century. Schleiden studied cells as the common element among all plants and animals. Schleiden contributed to the field of embryology through his introduction of the Zeiss microscope lens and via his work with cells and cell theory as an organizing principle of biology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

David H. Hubel and Torsten N. Wiesel’s Research on Optical Development in Kittens

During 1964, David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel studied the short and long term effects of depriving kittens of vision in one eye. In their experiments, Wiesel and Hubel used kittens as models for human children. Hubel and Wiesel researched whether the impairment of vision in one eye could be repaired or not and whether such impairments would impact vision later on in life. The researchers sewed one eye of a kitten shut for varying periods of time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Robert Geoffrey Edwards and Patrick Christopher Steptoe's Clinical Research in Human in vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer, 1969-1980

The biomedical accomplishment of human in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET) took years to become the successful technique that presently enables infertile couples to have their own children. In 1969, more than ten years after the first attempts to treat infertilities with IVF technologies, the British developmental biologist Robert Geoffrey Edwards fertilized human oocytes in a Petri dish for the first time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

Victor Jollos (1887-1941)

Victor Jollos studied fruit flies and
microorganisms in Europe and the US, and he introduced the concept of
Dauermodifikationen in the early 1900s. The concept of
Dauermodifikationen refers to environmentally-induced traits that are
heritable for only a limited number of generations. Some scientists
interpreted the results of Jollos's work on Paramecium and Drosophila as
evidence for cytoplasmic inheritance. Jollos was forced to emigrate from
Germany to the United States due to anti-semitic government policies in

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Jan Evangelista Purkyne (1787-1869)

Jan Evangelista Purkyne, also called Johannes or Johann Evangelist Purkinje, studied cells in the cerebellum, fibers of the heart, subjective visual phenomenon, and germinal vesicle, in eastern Europe during the early nineteenth century. His investigations provided insights into various mechanisms and structures of the human body. Purkyne introduced techniques for decalcification of bones and teeth, embedding of tissue specimens, and eye examinations.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Dennis Lo (1963- )

Dennis Lo, also called Yuk Ming Dennis Lo, is a
professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong,
China. In 1997, Lo discovered fetal DNA in maternal
plasma, which is the liquid component of a pregnant woman's
blood. By 2002, Lo distinguished the DNA differences between pregnant women
and their fetuses, enabling scientists to identify fetal DNA in pregnant
women's blood. Lo used his discoveries to develop several
non-invasive and prenatal genetic tests, including tests for blood

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Theodora (Theo) Emily Colborn (1927-2014)

Theodora Colborn studied how chemicals affect organisms as they develop and reproduce during the twentieth and twenty first centuries in the US. By the 1940s, researchers had reported that chemicals from agricultural and industrial processes affected how wild organisms developed, but in 1991, Colborn organized the Wingspread Conference in Racine, Wisconsin, at which a group of scientists classed these chemicals as environmentally harmful substances. Colborn and her colleagues called those chemicals endocrine disruptors, as they mimic or block the body's endocrine system.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Noninvasive Fetal Aneuploidy Detection for Trisomy 21, 13, and 18

Noninvasive fetal aneuploidy detection technology allows for the detection of fetal genetic conditions, specifically having three chromosomes, a condition called aneuploidy, by analyzing a simple blood sample from the pregnant woman. Dennis Lo and Rossa Chiu researched methods of detection of aneuploidies in the early twenty-first century. Their research has been specifically applied to three trisomies, trisomy twenty-one known as Down syndrome, trisomy eighteen known as Edwards Syndrome, and trisomy thirteen known as Patau Syndrome.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Equilibrium Density Gradient Centrifugation in Cesium Chloride Solutions Developed by Matthew Meselson and Franklin Stahl

Matthew Meselson, Franklin Stahl, and Jerome Vinograd, developed cesium chloride, or CsCl, density gradient centrifugation in the 1950s at the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, in Pasadena, California. Density gradient centrifugation enables scientists to separate substances based on size, shape, and density. Meselson and Stahl invented a specific type of density gradient centrifugation, called isopycnic centrifugation that used a solution of cesium chloride to separate DNA molecules based on density alone.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

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

"The Limited In Vitro Lifetime of Human Diploid Cell Strains" (1964), by Leonard Hayflick

Leonard Hayflick in the US during the early 1960s showed that normal populations of embryonic cells divide a finite number of times. He published his results as 'The Limited In Vitro Lifetime of Human Diploid Cell Strains' in 1964. Hayflick performed the experiment with WI-38 fetal lung cells, named after the Wistar Institute, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Hayflick worked. Frank MacFarlane Burnet, later called the limit in capacity for cellular division the Hayflick Limit in 1974.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Formation of Reticular Theory

In the nineteenth century, reticular theory aimed to describe the properties of neurons, the specialized cells which make up the nervous system, but was later disconfirmed by evidence. Reticular theory stated that the nervous system was composed of a continuous network of specialized cells without gaps (synapses), and was first proposed by researcher Joseph von Gerlach in Germany in 1871.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"Control of Corneal Differentiation by Extracellular Materials" (1974), by Stephen Meier and Elizabeth D. Hay

In 1974, Elizabeth Dexter Hay and Stephen Meier in the US conducted an experiment that demonstrated that the extracellular matrix, the mesh-like network of proteins and carbohydrates found outside of cells in the body, interacted with cells and affected their behaviors. In the experiment, Hay and Meier removed the outermost layer of cells that line the front of the eye, called corneal epithelium, from developing chick embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Paul Eugen Bleuler (1857–1939)

Paul Eugen Bleuler studied autism and schizophrenia, among other psychiatric disorders, throughout continental Europe in the early twentieth century. Bleuler worked as a psychiatrist caring for patients with psychiatric disorders at a variety of facilities in Europe. In 1908, Bleuler coined the term schizophrenia to describe a group of diseases that cause changes in thought processes and behavior in humans as well as difficulties relating to the world.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound (1873-1906)

First marketed in the US 1875, Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was an herbal medicine used by women to relieve menstrual discomfort and menopausal symptoms in women. The herbal compound was invented by Lydia Estes Pinkham in 1873 in her home kitchen in Lynn, Massachusetts. Pinkham created the compound by mixing alcohol with roots and herbs. The compound was patented, packaged, and distributed by the Mrs. Lydia Pinkham Medicine Company in 1876. The Mrs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Nicole Marthe Le Douarin (1930- )

Nicole Marthe Le Douarin was one of the first progressive female pioneers of developmental and embryological research. Some of her most notable and ground-breaking work involves grafting quail and chicken embryos together in order to study the developmental fate of each contributing embryo. Le Douarin was born in Brittany, France, on 20 August 1930. As an only child she was inspired by her mother, a school teacher at the time, to develop a passion for learning.

Format: Articles

Subject: People