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Charles Otis Whitman (1842-1910)

Charles Otis Whitman was an extremely curious and driven researcher who was not content to limit himself to one field of expertise. Among the fields of study to which he made significant contributions were: embryology; morphology, or the form of living organisms and the relationships between their structures; natural history; and behavior.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Pregnancy Tests

Throughout history methods involving urine have been a popular way to test for pregnancy. Early ideas ranged from simply observing the color of a woman's urine to the notion that the urine of pregnant women contains special crystals or secretions. Indeed, pregnancy testing can be traced back to 1350 BCE in Ancient Egypt. A written document from the time describes a process in which a woman would urinate on wheat and barley seeds over several days and, depending on which plant grew, both the woman's pregnancy status and the sex of the fetus could be determined.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman's uterus. For many women, a hysterectomy comes as a solution to health problems as diverse as abnormal bleeding to reproductive cancers. First performed in the early 1800s, this procedure has evolved in terms of both technique and popularity. The first successful abdominal hysterectomy was performed by Ellis Burnham in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1853, although earlier attempts were made in the 1840s.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Corpus Callosum Defects Associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) can result in a continuum of developmental abnormalities that are highly variable depending on the severity, duration, frequency, and timing of exposure during gestation. Defects of the corpus callosum (CC) have proven to be a reliable indicator of prenatal alcohol exposure as it affects the brain. Structural abnormalities of the CC occur along a continuum, like most alcohol-induced anomalies, whereby more severe prenatal exposure results in a greater expression of the abnormal trait.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Congenital Vertebral Defects

The spinal column is the central structure in the vertebrate body from which stability, movement, and posture all derive. The vertebrae of the spine are organized into four regions (listed in order from cranial to caudal): cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and pelvic. These regions are classified by their differences in curvature. The human spine usually consists of thirty-three vertebrae, seven of which are cervical (C1-C7), twelve are thoracic (T1-T12), five are lumbar (L1-L5), and nine are pelvic (five fused as the sacrum and four fused as the coccyx).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Abortion

Abortion is the removal of the embryo or fetus from the womb, before birth can occur-either naturally or by induced labor. Prenatal development occurs in three stages: the zygote, or fertilized egg; the embryo, from post-conception to eight weeks; and the fetus, from eight weeks after conception until the baby is born. After abortion, the infant does not and cannot live. Spontaneous abortion is the loss of the infant naturally or accidentally, without the will of the mother. It is more commonly referred to as miscarriage.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins (1926-2010)

Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins devoted much of his professional life to obstetric research. Liggins demonstrated that hormones created by the fetus helped initiate labor, rather than hormones originating solely from the mother. Liggins also discovered that cortisol given to pregnant mothers helped delay premature labor, and that it increased the likelihood that premature infants would breathe normally after birth. Prior to cortisol treatment, premature infants often died of respiratory distress syndrome characterized by the inability to inflate immature lungs.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Advanced Cell Technology, Inc.

Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. (ACT) is a biotechnology company that uses stem cell technology to develop novel therapies in the field of regenerative medicine. Formed in 1994, ACT grew from a small agricultural cloning research facility located in Worcester, Massachusetts, into a multi-locational corporation involved in using both human embryonic stem cells (hESC) and human adult stem cells as well as animal cells for therapeutic innovations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

Gastrulation in Mus musculus (common house mouse)

As mice embryos develop, they undergo a stage of development called gastrulation. The hallmark of vertebrate gastrulation is the reorganization of the inner cell mass (ICM) into the three germ layers: ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. Mammalian embryogenesis occurs within organisms; therefore, gastrulation was originally described in species with easily observable embryos. For example, the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) is the most widely used organism to study gastrulation because the large embryos develop inside a translucent membrane.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Experiments

James Marion Sims's Treatment of Vesico-Vaginal Fistula

James Marion Sims developed a treatment for vesico-vaginal fistulas in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1840s. Vesico-vaginal fistulas were a relatively common condition in which a woman's urine leaked into her vaginal cavity from her bladder, and many regarded the fistulas as untreatable during the early 1800s. After years of efforts to repair the fistulas with myriad tools, techniques, and procedures, Sims developed the speculum and a vaginal examination position later named for him.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

"The Adaptive Significance of Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination in a Reptile" (2008), by Daniel Warner and Richard Shine

In 2008 researchers Daniel Warner and Richard Shine tested the Charnov-Bull model by conducting experiments on the Jacky dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus), in Australia. Their results showed that temperature-dependent sex determination(TSD) evolved in this species as an adaptation to fluctuating environmental temperatures. The Charnov-Bull model, proposed by Eric Charnov and James Bull in 1977, described the evolution of TSD, although the model was, for many years, untested.

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

Process of Eukaryotic Embryonic Development

All sexually reproducing, multicellular diploid eukaryotes begin life as embryos. Understanding the stages of embryonic development is vital to explaining how eukaryotes form and how they are related on the tree of life. This understanding can also help answer questions related to morphology, ethics, medicine, and other pertinent fields of study. In particular, the field of comparative embryology is concerned with documenting the stages of ontogeny.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Viktor Hamburger (1900-2001)

Viktor Hamburger was an embryologist who focused on neural development. His scientific career stretched from the early 1920s as a student of Hans Spemann to the late 1980s at Washington University resolving the role of nerve growth factor in the life of neurons. Hamburger is noted for his systematic approach to science and a strict attention to detail. Throughout his life he maintained an interest in nature and the arts, believing both were important to his scientific work.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Osborne Overton Heard (1890-1983)

Osborne O. Heard was a noted Carnegie embryological model maker for the Department of Embryology at The Carnegie Institute of Washington (CIW), Baltimore, Maryland. Heard was born in Frederick, Maryland, on 21 November 1890. His father died while Heard and his three brothers were quite young. Heard attended night school at the Maryland Institute of Art and Design where he studied sculpting and patternmaking. While working as a patternmaker for the Detrick and Harvey Machine Company, Heard made models of tools using a variety of materials such as wood, plastic, and plaster of Paris.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Dictyostelium discoideum

Dictyostelium discoideum is a cellular slime mold that serves as an important model organism in a variety of fields. Cellular slime molds have an unusual life cycle. They exist as separate amoebae, but after consuming all the bacteria in their area they proceed to stream together to form a multicellular organism. These features make it a valuable tool for studying developmental processes and also for investigating the evolution of multicellularity. Long thought to be a type of fungus, it has recently been shown that slime molds in fact bear no relation to fungi.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms

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

Caspar Friedrich Wolff (1734-1794)

Caspar Friedrich Wolff is most famous for his 1759 doctoral dissertation, Theoria Generationis, in which he described embryonic development in both plants and animals as a process involving layers of cells, thereby refuting the accepted theory of preformation: the idea that organisms develop as a result of the unfolding of form that is somehow present from the outset, as in a homunculus. This work generated a great deal of controversy and discussion at the time of its publication but was an integral move in the reemergence and acceptance of the theory of epigenesis.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Artificial Parthenogenesis and Fertilization (1913), by Jacques Loeb

Jacques Loeb is best known for his embryological work investigating parthenogenesis in invertebrates. Artificial Parthenogenesis and Fertilization is a revised and English-translated work from his earlier book, Die chemische Entwicklungserregung des tierischen Eies (1900). Artificial Parthenogenesis describes Loeb's many and varied methodical experiments to initiate egg development without fertilization by sperm. As is true with much of science, some of Loeb's experiments were successful and many were not.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Preformationism in the Enlightenment

Preformationism was a theory of embryological development used in the late seventeenth through the late eighteenth centuries. This theory held that the generation of offspring occurs as a result of an unfolding and growth of preformed parts. There were two competing models of preformationism: the ovism model, in which the location of these preformed parts prior to gestation was the maternal egg, and the spermism model, in which a preformed individual or homunculus was thought to exist in the head of each sperm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945)

Although best known for his work with the fruit fly, for which he earned a Nobel Prize and the title "The Father of Genetics," Thomas Hunt Morgan's contributions to biology reach far beyond genetics. His research explored questions in embryology, regeneration, evolution, and heredity, using a variety of approaches.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Hilde Mangold (1898-1924)

Hilde Mangold, previously Hilde Proescholdt, was a German embryologist and physiologist who became well known for research completed with Hans Spemann in the 1920s. As a graduate student, Mangold assisted Spemann and together they discovered and coined the term the "organizer." The organizer discovery was a crucial contribution to embryology that led to further understanding of the pattern of embryo differentiation of amphibians.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Corticosteroids' Effect on Fetal Lung Maturation (1972), by Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins and Ross Howie

In a clinical trial from 1969 to 1972, Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins and Ross Howie showed that if doctors treat pregnant women with corticosteroids before those women deliver prematurely, then those women's infants have fewer cases of respiratory distress syndrome than do similarly premature infants of women not treated with corticosteroids. Prior to the study, premature infants born before 32 weeks of gestation often died of respiratory distress syndrome, or the inability to inflate immature lungs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

A plant genetically modified that accumulates Pb is especially promising for phytoremediation (2003), by Carmina Gisbert et al.

In 2003, Carmina Gisbert and her research team produced a tobacco plant that could remove lead from soil. To do so, they inserted a gene from wheat plants that produces phytochelatin synthase into a shrub tobacco plant (Nicotiana glauca) to increase N. glauca's absorption and tolerance of toxic metals, particularly lead and cadmium. Gisbert and her team aimed to genetically modify a plant so that it could be used for phytoremediation- using plants to remove toxic substances from the soil.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Technologies

Aristotle (384-322 BCE)

Aristotle studied developing organisms, among other things, in ancient Greece, and his writings shaped Western philosophy and natural science for greater than two thousand years. He spent much of his life in Greece and studied with Plato at Plato's Academy in Athens, where he later established his own school called the Lyceum. Aristotle wrote greater than 150 treatises on subjects ranging from aesthetics, politics, ethics, and natural philosophy, which include physics and biology. Less than fifty of Aristotle's treatises persisted into the twenty-first century.

Format: Articles

Subject: People