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Dissertation: Degeneration in Miniature: History of Cell Death and Aging Research in the Twentieth Century

Once perceived as an unimportant occurrence in living organisms, cell degeneration was reconfigured as an important biological phenomenon in development, aging, health, and diseases in the twentieth century. This dissertation tells a twentieth-century history of scientific investigations on cell degeneration, including cell death and aging.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Processes, Organisms

Hedgehog Signaling Pathway

The hedgehog signaling pathway is a mechanism that directs the development of embryonic cells in animals, from invertebrates to vertebrates. The hedgehog signaling pathway is a system of genes and gene products, mostly proteins, that convert one kind of signal into another, called transduction. In 1980, Christiane Nusslein-Volhard and Eric F. Wieschaus, at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, identified several fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) genes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Golgi Staining Technique

The Golgi staining technique, also called the black reaction after the stain's color, was developed in the 1870s and 1880s in Italy to make brain cells (neurons) visible under the microscope. Camillo Golgi developed the technique while working with nervous tissue, which required Golgi to examine cell structure under the microscope. Golgi improved upon existing methods of staining, enabling scientists to view entire neurons for the first time and changing the way people discussed the development and composition of the brain's cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Processes

Stem Cells

According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the standard American source on stem cell research, three characteristics of stem cells differentiate them from other cell types: (1) they are unspecialized cells that (2) divide for long periods, renewing themselves and (3) can give rise to specialized cells, such as muscle and skin cells, under particular physiological and experimental conditions. When allowed to grow in particular environments, stem cells divide many times. This ability to proliferate can yield millions of stem cells over several months.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

The Notch Signaling Pathway in Embryogenesis

The Notch signaling pathway is a mechanism in animals by which adjacent cells communicate with each other, conveying spatial information and genetic instructions for the animal's development. All multicellular animals utilize Notch signaling, which contributes to the formation, growth, and development of embryos (embryogenesis). Notch signaling also contributes to the differentiation of embryonic cells into various types of cells into various types of cells, such as neurons.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Sex-determining Region Y in Mammals

The Sex-determining Region Y (Sry in mammals but SRY in humans) is a gene found on Y chromosomes that leads to the development of male phenotypes, such as testes. The Sry gene, located on the short branch of the Y chromosome, initiates male embryonic development in the XY sex determination system. The Sry gene follows the central dogma of molecular biology; the DNA encoding the gene is transcribed into messenger RNA, which then produces a single Sry protein.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering (MAGE)

Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering, or MAGE, is a genome editing technique that enables scientists to quickly edit an organism’s DNA to produce multiple changes across the genome. In 2009, two genetic researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, Harris Wang and George Church, developed the technology during a time when researchers could only edit one site in an organism’s genome at a time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Processes

The Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1957–1958), by Matthew Meselson and Franklin Stahl

In an experiment later named for them, Matthew Stanley Meselson and Franklin William Stahl in the US demonstrated during the 1950s the semi-conservative replication of DNA, such that each daughter DNA molecule contains one new daughter subunit and one subunit conserved from the parental DNA molecule. The researchers conducted the experiment at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, from October 1957 to January 1958.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Experiments

Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer in Mammals (1938-2013)

In the second half of the
twentieth century, scientists learned how to clone organisms in some
species of mammals. Scientists have applied somatic cell nuclear transfer to clone human and
mammalian embryos as a means to produce stem cells for laboratory
and medical use. Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is a technology applied in cloning, stem cell
research and regenerative medicine. Somatic cells are cells that
have gone through the differentiation process and are not germ
cells. Somatic cells donate their nuclei, which scientists

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Technologies, Processes

“The Prophylactic Forceps Operation” (1920), by Joseph Bolivar DeLee

In 1920, Joseph Bolivar DeLee published the article, “The Prophylactic Forceps Operation,” in which he describes how physicians can manually remove a neonate from a laboring woman’s vagina with the use of sedating drugs and forceps. The procedure, according to DeLee, resulted in decreased rates of complications and mortality for both the woman and neonate. DeLee claimed the procedure could reduce damage to the woman such as prolapse, or when internal pelvic organs push down and sometimes protrude from the vagina, and fatal infant brain bleeding.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Processes

Zidovudine or Azidothymidine (AZT)

In 1964, Jerome Horwitz synthesized the drug zidovudine, commonly abbreviated ZDV, otherwise known as azidothymidine, or AZT, at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan. Horwitz and his colleagues originally developed zidovudine to treat cancers caused by retroviruses. In 1983, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine recipients Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier discovered a new retrovirus, the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

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

Intraspecies Chimeras Produced in Laboratory Settings (1960-1975)

When cells-but not DNA-from two or more genetically distinct individuals combine to form a new individual, the result is called a chimera. Though chimeras occasionally occur in nature, scientists have produced chimeras in a laboratory setting since the 1960s. During the creation of a chimera, the DNA molecules do not exchange genetic material (recombine), unlike in sexual reproduction or in hybrid organisms, which result from genetic material exchanged between two different species. A chimera instead contains discrete cell populations with two unique sets of parental genes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms, Processes

“Transfer of a Human Zygote” (1973), by David De Kretzer, Peter Dennis, Bryan Hudson, John Leeton, Alexander Lopata, Ken Outch, James Talbot, and Carl Wood

On 29 September 1973, researchers David De Kretzer, Peter Dennis, Bryan Hudson, John Leeton, Alexander Lopata, Ken Outch, James Talbot, and Carl Wood published “Transfer of a Human Zygote,” in The Lancet. In the article, the authors describe an experiment that resulted in one of the first pregnancies established via in vitro fertilization, or IVF. Prior to the article’s publication in 1973, there was no published evidence demonstrating whether IVF treatment would work in humans, although evidence existed showing that IVF worked in other mammals for breeding purposes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Processes

The Development of Silicone Breast Implants for Use in Breast Augmentation Surgeries in the United States

In the 1960s, two plastic surgeons from the United States, Thomas Dillon Cronin and Frank Judson Gerow, collaborated with the Dow Corning Corporation, which specialized in silicone products, to create the first silicone breast implant. Surgeons used the implant, named the Cronin-Gerow implant, to improve the look of a woman’s breasts, by correcting for asymmetry, augmenting the size, or creating a more uplifted profile.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Processes

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

Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that are capable of dividing for long periods of time and can give rise to specialized cells under particular conditions. Embryonic stem cells are a particular type of stem cell derived from embryos. According to US National Institutes of Health (NIH), in humans, the term "embryo" applies to a fertilized egg from the beginning of division up to the end of the eighth week of gestation, when the embryo becomes a fetus. Between fertilization and the eighth week of gestation, the embryo undergoes multiple cell divisions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Homunculus

The term homunculus is Latin for "little man." It is used in neurology today to describe the map in the brain of sensory neurons in each part of the body (the somatosensory homunculus). An early use of the word was in the 1572 work by Paracelsus regarding forays into alchemy, De Natura Rerum, in which he gave instructions in how to create an infant human without fertilization or gestation in the womb. In the history of embryology, the homunculus was part of the Enlightenment-era theory of generation called preformationism.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Hamburger-Hamilton Staging Series (1951)

In 1951 Viktor Hamburger and Howard Hamilton created an embryonic staging series from a combination of photographs and drawings from other researchers. The Hamburger-Hamilton stages are a sequence of images depicting 46 chronological stages in chick development. The images begin with a fertilized egg and end with a fully developed chick. The Hamburger-Hamilton staging series was produced in order to replace a previous chick staging series created in 1900. The earlier attempt lacked specific details and staged the chick embryo by using only morphological characteristics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Fetal Programming

Fetal programming, or prenatal programming, is a concept that suggests certain events occurring during critical points of pregnancy may cause permanent effects on the fetus and the infant long after birth. The concept of fetal programming stemmed from the fetal origins hypothesis, also known as Barker’s hypothesis, that David Barker proposed in 1995 at the University of Southampton in Southampton, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Theories, Reproduction

Beadle's One Gene-One Enzyme Hypothesis

Between 1934 and 1945, George Beadle developed a hypothesis that each gene within the chromosomes of organisms each produced one enzyme. Enzymes are types of proteins that can catalyze reactions inside cells, and the figure shows that each enzyme controls a stage in a series of biochemical reactions. The top box in this figure represents a normal process of enzyme production and biochemical reactions, and the bottom box shows how Beadle's experiments affected the normal biochemical process.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Theories, Processes

The Yale Embryo

In 1934 a fourteen-day-old embryo was discovered during a postmortem examination and became famous for being the youngest known human embryo specimen at the time. The embryo was coined "the Yale Embryo," named after the location where it was discovered, Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. During the early twentieth century, the rush to collect embryos as well as to find younger and younger embryos was at an all time high, and the Yale Embryo is representative of the this enthusiasm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Hematopoietic Stem Cells

The discovery of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) provided a pioneering step in stem cell research. HSCs are a type of multipotent adult stem cell, characterized by their ability to self-renew and differentiate into erythrocyte (red blood cell) and leukocyte (white blood cell) cell lineages. In terms of function, these cells are responsible for the continual renewal of the erythrocytes, leukocytes, and platelets in the body through a process called hematopoiesis. They also play an important role in the formation of vital organs such as the liver and spleen during fetal development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Endothelium

The endothelium is the layer of cells lining the blood vessels in animals. It weighs more than one kilogram in adult humans, and it covers a surface area of 4000 to 7000 square meters. The endothelium is the cellular interface between the circulating blood and underlying tissue. As the medium between these two sets of tissues, endothelium is part of many normal and disease processes throughout the body.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Theories

Fruit Fly Life Cycle

Fruit flies of the species Drosophila melanogaster develop from eggs to adults in eight to ten days at 25 degrees Celsius. They develop through four primary stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. When in the wild, female flies lay their fertilized eggs in rotting fruit or other decomposing material that can serve as food for the larvae. In the lab, fruit flies lay their fertilized eggs in a mixture of agar, molasses, cornmeal, and yeast. After roughly a day, each egg hatches into a larva.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Theories, Processes, Organisms

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