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Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is located outside the nucleus in the liquid portion of the cell (cytoplasm) inside cellular organelles called Mitochondria. Mitochondria are located in all complex or eukaryotic cells, including plant, animal, fungi, and single celled protists, which contain their own mtDNA genome. In animals with a backbone, or vertebrates, mtDNA is a double stranded, circular molecule that forms a circular genome, which ranges in size from sixteen to eighteen kilo-base pairs, depending on species. Each mitochondrion in a cell can have multiple copies of the mtDNA genome.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Experiments on the Reproductive Costs of a Pure Capital Breeder, the Children’s Python (Antaresia childreni) (2013), by Olivier Lourdais, Sophie Lorioux, and Dale F. DeNardo

In 2013, Olivier Lourdais, Sophie Lorioux, and Dale DeNardo conducted a study on the impact of the reproductive effort on the muscle size and the constriction strength of female Children’s pythons. Children’s pythons are pure capital breeders, meaning that they do not eat during vitellogenesis, a process in which egg-laying or oviparous species allocate bodily resources including fat, water, and protein to follicles in the ovary that develop into eggs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Shettles Method of Sex Selection

In the 1960s in the United States Landrum B. Shettles developed the Shettles method, which is a procedure for couples to use prior to and during an intercourse to increase their chances of conceiving a fetus of their desired sex. Shettles, a physician, who specialized in obstetrics and gynecology, found a difference in the size and shape of male sperm cells that he correlated with the different sex chromosomes they carry.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Katharine McCormick (1876-1967)

Katharine Dexter McCormick, who contributed the majority of funding for the development of the oral contraceptive pill, was born to Josephine and Wirt Dexter on 27 August 1875 in Dexter, Michigan. After growing up in Chicago, Illinois, she attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she graduated in 1904 with a BS in biology. That same year, she married Stanley McCormick, the son of Cyrus McCormick, inventor and manufacturer of the mechanized reaper.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

The Origin of Species: "Chapter Thirteen: Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs" (1859), by Charles R. Darwin

Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs is the thirteenth chapter of Charles Darwin's book The Origin of Species, first published in England in 1859. The book details part of Darwin's argument for the common ancestry of life and natural selection as the cause of speciation. In this chapter, Darwin summarizes the evidence for evolution by connecting observations of development in organisms to the processes of natural selection.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Purkinje Cells

Purkinje cells, also called Purkinje neurons, are neurons in vertebrate animals located in the cerebellar cortex of the brain. Purkinje cell bodies are shaped like a flask and have many threadlike extensions called dendrites, which receive impulses from other neurons called granule cells. Each cell also has a single projection called an axon, which transmits impulses to the part of the brain that controls movement, the cerebellum. Purkinje cells are inhibitory neurons: they secrete neurotransmitters that bind to receptors that inhibit or reduce the firing of other neurons.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Karl Oskar Illmensee (1939–)

Karl Oskar Illmensee studied the cloning and reproduction of fruit flies, mice, and humans in the US and Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Illmensee used nuclear transfer techniques (cloning) to create early mouse embryos from adult mouse cells, a technique biologists used in later decades to help explain how embryonic cells function during development. In the early 1980s, Illmensee faced accusations of fraud when others were unable to replicate the results of his experiments with cloned mouse embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, People

"On the Nature of the Process of Fertilization and the Artificial Production of Normal Larvae (Plutei) From the Unfertilized Eggs of the Sea Urchin" (1899), by Jacques Loeb

Jacques Loeb developed procedures to make embryos from unfertilized sea urchin eggs in 1899. Loeb called the procedures "artificial parthenogenesis," and he introduced them and his results in "On the Nature of the Process of Fertilization and the Artificial Production of Norma Larvae (Plutei) from the Unfertilized Eggs of the Sea Urchin" in an 1899 issue of The American Journal of Physiology. In 1900 Loeb elaborated on his experiments.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Fate Map

Early development occurs in a highly organized and orchestrated manner and has long attracted the interest of developmental biologists and embryologists. Cell lineage, or the study of the developmental differentiation of a blastomere, involves tracing a particular cell (blastomere) forward from its position in one of the three germ layers. Labeling individual cells within their germ layers allows for a pictorial interpretation of gastrulation. This chart or graphical representation detailing the fate of each part of an early embryo is referred to as a fate map.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Eric Wieschaus (1947- )

Eric Wieschaus studied how genes cause fruit fly larvae to develop in the US and Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, Wieschaus and colleague Christiane Nusslein-Volhard described genes and gene products that help form the fruit fly body plan and establish the larval segments during embryogenesis. This work earned Wieschaus and Nüsslein-Volhard the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Visualizing Human Embryos" (1999), by Bradley Richard Smith

In March 1999 Bradley Richard Smith, a professor at the University of Michigan, unveiled the first digital magnetic resonance images of human embryos. In his article "Visualizing Human Embryos for Scientific American," Smith displayed three-dimensional images of embryos using combinations of Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM), light microscopy, and various computer editing. He created virtual embryo models that it is possible to view as dissections, animations, or in their whole 3D form. Smith's images constitute a new way of visualizing embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Publications

George McDonald Church (1954- )

George McDonald Church studied DNA from living and from extinct species in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Church helped to develop and refine techniques with which to describe the complete sequence of all the DNA nucleotides in an organism's genome, techniques such as multiplex sequencing, polony sequencing, and nanopore sequencing. Church also contributed to the Human Genome Project, and in 2005 he helped start a company, the Personal Genome Project. Church proposed to use DNA from extinct species to clone and breed new organisms from those species.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

August Friedrich Leopold Weismann (1834-1914)

August Friedrich Leopold Weismann studied how the traits of organisms developed and evolved in a variety of organisms, mostly insects and aquatic animals, in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Weismann proposed the theory of the continuity of germ-plasm, a theory of heredity. Weismann postulated that germ-plasm was the hereditary material in cells, and parents transmitted to their offspring only the germ-plasm present in germ-cells (sperm and egg cells) rather than somatic or body cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Gregory Goodwin Pincus (1903-1967)

Gregory Goodwin Pincus, one of the original researchers responsible for the development of the first oral contraceptive pill, was born in Woodbine, New Jersey, on 19 April 1903 to Russian Jewish parents. In 1924 Pincus received his BS degree from Cornell University, and in 1927 he received his MS and PhD from Harvard University, having studied under William Ernest Castle and William John Crozier.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

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

Ethics and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

The recent development of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and related technologies has caught the attention of scientists, activists, politicians, and ethicists alike. IPSCs gained immediate international attention for their apparent similarity to embryonic stem cells after their successful creation in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka and in 2007 by James Thompson and others.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Ethics

Tissue Engineering

Tissue engineering is a field of regenerative medicine that integrates the knowledge of scientists, physicians, and engineers into the construction or reconstruction of human tissue. Practitioners of tissue engineering seek to repair, replace, maintain, and enhance the abilities of a specific tissue or organ by means of living cells. More often than not stem cells are the form of living cells used in this technology. Tissue engineering is one of the disciplines involved in translating knowledge of developmental biology into the clinical setting.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

"Apoptosis: A Basic Biological Phenomenon with Wide-Ranging Implications in Tissue Kinetics" (1972), by John F. R. Kerr, Andrew H. Wyllie and Alastair R. Currie

"Apoptosis: A Basic Biological Phenomenon with Wide-Ranging Implications in Tissue Kinetics" (hereafter abbreviated as "Apoptosis") was published in the British Journal of Cancer in 1972 and co-authored by three pathologists who collaborated at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. In this paper the authors propose the term apoptosis for regulated cell death that proceeds through active, controlled morphological changes. This is in contrast to necrosis, a passive mode of cell death that results from uncontrolled cellular reactions to injury or stress.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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

Otto Mangold (1891-1962)

Otto Mangold was an early twentieth century embryologist who specialized in the development of amphibian embryos. A major emphasis of his research was refining the concept of the organizer, now referred to as embryonic induction. He was born on 4 November 1891 in Auenstein, Germany, and came from what Viktor Hamburger, a colleague and personal acquaintance, described as "peasant stock." Mangold attended several universities including Tübingen, Freiburg, and Rostock.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Franz Josef Kallmann (1897–1965)

Franz Josef Kallmann studied the biological and genetic factors of psychological disorders in Germany and the United States in the twentieth century. His studies at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City, New York, focused on the genetic factors that cause psychiatric disorders. Kallmann was one of the first to use twins to study how a mental disorder is passed on by comparing the occurrence of epilepsy and schizophrenia in both fraternal and identical twins.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Hydrocephalus During Infancy

Hydrocephalus is a congenital or acquired disorder characterized by the abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the cavities of the brain, called ventricles. The accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid, the clear fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, causes an abnormal widening of the ventricles. The widening creates potentially harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain that can result in brain damage or death.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

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

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

Edwin Stephen Goodrich (1868-1946)

Edwin Stephen Goodrich studied the structures of animals in England during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Goodrich studied how animals develop to identify their parts and to establish the evolutionary relationships between different species. Goodrich established that body structures can shift their positions relative to an organism's body during evolution, and he hypothesized that body structures can share ancestry (homology) between organisms of different species, even without identical body placement.

Format: Articles

Subject: People