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Methylmercury and Human Embryonic Development

Methylmercury (MeHg) is an organic form of mercury that can damage the developing brains of human fetuses. Women who consume methylmercury during pregnancy can bear children who have neurological issues because methylmercury has toxic effects on the nervous system during embryonic development. During the third week of gestation, the human nervous system begins to form in the embryo. During this gestational period, the embryo's nervous system is particularly susceptible to the influence of neurotoxins like methylmercury that can result in abnormalities.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Pope Gregory XIV (1535-1591)

Pope Gregory XIV, born Nicolo Sfondrati, reversed the bull of Pope Sixtus V, Effraenatum, under which an abortion at any time of gestation can be punished by excommunication. He supported the Aristotelian distinction between an "animated" and "unanimated" fetus, making abortion of an unanimated fetus punishable by lesser means. This decision contributed to the historical debates within the Roman Catholic Church on when a fetus has a soul, and when abortion was punishable by excommunication.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Molecular Epigenetics and Development: Histone Conformations, DNA Methylation and Genomic Imprinting

Introduced by Conrad Hal Waddington in 1942, the concept of epigenetics gave scientists a new paradigm of thought concerning embryonic development, and since then has been widely applied, for instance to inheritable diseases, molecular technologies, and indeed the human genome as a whole. A genome contains an embedded intricate coding template that provides a means of genetic expression from the initial steps of embryonic development until the death of the organism. Within the genome there are two prominent components: coding (exons) and non-coding (introns) sequences.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Leonardo da Vinci was born on 15 April 1452, the illegitimate son of a young peasant girl by the name of Caterina and Ser Piero da Vinci, a well-renowned Florentine notary. Leonardo lived in Italy in the town of Vinci until his late teens and received a simple education in reading and writing as well as some training in mathematics and engineering. Although he was socially excluded by birthright from almost every profession and prohibited from attending any formal university, Leonardo went on to become a celebrated scientist, artist, and engineer.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Florence Rena Sabin (1871-1953)

Florence Rena Sabin had successful careers as both a researcher and public health reformer. When Johns Hopkins University Medical School opened, accepting women and men on the same basis, Sabin was one of the first to enter. After the successful completion of her MD degree, Sabin went on to become the first female faculty member and later full-time professor at Johns Hopkins.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Hensen's Node

A node, or primitive knot, is an enlarged group of cells located in the anterior portion of the primitive streak in a developing gastrula. The node is the site where gastrulation, the formation of the three germ layers, first begins. The node determines and patterns the anterior-posterior axis of the embryo by directing the development of the chordamesoderm. The chordamesoderm is a specific type of mesoderm that will differentiate into the notochord, somites, and neural tube. Those structures will later form the vertebral column.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Somites: Formation and Role in Developing the Body Plan

Somites are blocks of mesoderm that are located on either side of the neural tube in the developing vertebrate embryo. Somites are precursor populations of cells that give rise to important structures associated with the vertebrate body plan and will eventually differentiate into dermis, skeletal muscle, cartilage, tendons, and vertebrae. Somites also determine the migratory paths of neural crest cells and of the axons of spinal nerves.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Hanging Drop Tissue Culture

The hanging drop tissue culture is a technique utilized in embryology and other fields to allow growth that would otherwise be restricted by the flat plane of culture dishes and also to minimize the surface area to volume ratio, slowing evaporation. The classic hanging drop culture is a small drop of liquid, such as plasma or some other media allowing tissue growth, suspended from an inverted watch glass. The hanging drop is then suspended by gravity and surface tension, rather than spreading across a plate.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Pope Innocent XI (1611-1689)

Pope Innocent XI, born Benedetto Odescalchi, made considerable contributions to the Roman Catholic approach to embryology by condemning several propositions on liberal moral theology in 1679, including two related to abortion and ensoulment. His rejection of these principles strengthened the Church's stance against abortion and for the idea of "hominization," meaning the presence of human qualities before birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

St. Augustine (354-430)

St. Augustine of Hippo, born Aurelius Augustinus to a respectable family in the year 354 CE, is now considered one of the foremost theologians in the history of the Catholic Church. His writings, including his philosophy regarding life in the womb and the moral worth of embryos, influenced many other great thinkers of his time and throughout history.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion

Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM)

Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM) is an imaging method that allows the visualization of internal body structures. Using powerful magnets to send energy into cells, MRM picks up signals from inside a specimen and translates them into detailed computer images. MRM is a useful tool for scientists because of its ability to generate digital slices of scanned specimens that can be constructed into virtual 3D images without destroying the specimens. MRM has become an increasingly prevalent imaging technique in embryological studies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

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

Angelman Syndrome

Angelman syndrome is a disorder in humans that causes neurological symptoms such as lack of speech, jerky movements, and insomnia. A human cell has two copies of twenty-three chromosomes for a total of forty-six-one copy from its mother and one from its father. But in the case of Angelman syndrome, the maternal chromosome numbered 15 has a mutation or deletion in its DNA and a gene on the paternal chromosome 15 is inactivated in some parts the brain. The result is the paternal gene is silenced during development of the sperm, which is called genetic imprinting.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Hans Asperger (1906-1980)

Hans Asperger studied mental abnormalities in children in
Vienna, Austria, in the early twentieth century. Asperger was one of
the early researchers who studied the syndrome that was later named
after him, Asperger's Syndrome. Asperger described the syndrome in
his 1944 publication Die Autistischen Psychopathen im
Kindesalter (Autistic Psychopathy in Childhood). At that time,
the syndrome was called autistic psychopathy, and Asperger noted
that characteristics of the syndrome included lack of sympathy,

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“An Extended Family with a Dominantly Inherited Speech Disorder” (1990), by Jane A. Hurst et al.

In 1990, researcher Jane Hurst and her colleagues published “An Extended Family With a Dominantly Inherited Speech Disorder,” in which they proposed that a single gene was responsible for a language disorder across three generations of a family. Affected individuals of the family, called the KE family, had difficulty producing, expressing and comprehending speech. Hurst and her team studied the KE family and the disorder at the Department of Clinical Genetics at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Disorders

August Karl Gustav Bier (1861–1949)

In the late nineteenth century, August Karl Gustav Bier was a surgeon in Germany who studied spinal cord anesthesia, later called spinal block. Bier found that, depending upon the amount of anesthesia introduced into the spinal cord, a large area of the human body could be numbed to various degrees. Bier established a procedure to numb individuals from the lower legs to the upper abdomen, with the individual’s numbness ranging from them feeling pressure on their body to them feeling nothing at all.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Charles Knowlton (1800–1850)

Charles Knowlton was a physician and author who advocated for increased access to information about reproduction in the nineteenth century in the US. Throughout his early medical education, Knowlton was particularly interested in anatomy and on several instances robbed graves for bodies to dissect. In 1832, Knowlton authored The Fruits of Philosophy, a pamphlet that contained detailed descriptions of the reproductive organs and information on conception and methods to control reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Meiosis in Humans

Meiosis, the process by which sexually-reproducing organisms generate gametes (sex cells), is an essential precondition for the normal formation of the embryo. As sexually reproducing, diploid, multicellular eukaryotes, humans rely on meiosis to serve a number of important functions, including the promotion of genetic diversity and the creation of proper conditions for reproductive success.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Beatrice Mintz (1921- )

Beatrice Mintz is a brilliant researcher who has developed techniques essential for many aspects of research on mouse development. She produced the first successful mouse chimeras and meticulously characterized their traits. She has worked with various cancers and produced viable mice from the cells of a teratoma. Mintz participated in the development of transgenic mice by the incorporation of foreign DNA into a mouse genome.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Maternal Thyroid Deficiency During Pregnancy and Subsequent Neuropsychological Development of the Child" (1999), by James E. Haddow et al.

From 1987 to the late 1990s, James Haddow and his team of researchers at the Foundation for Blood Research in Scarborough, Maine, studied children born to women who had thyroid deficiencies while pregnant with those children. Haddow's team focused the study on newborns who had normal thyroid function at the time of neonatal screening. They tested the intelligence quotient, or IQ, of the children, ages eight to eleven years, and found that all of the children born to thyroid-hormone deficient mothers performed less well than the control group.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination in Reptiles

The sex of a reptile embryo partly results from the production of sex hormones during development, and one process to produce those hormones depends on the temperature of the embryo's environment. The production of sex hormones can result solely from genetics or from genetics in combination with the influence of environmental factors. In genotypic sex determination, also called genetic or chromosomal sex determination, an organism's genes determine which hormones are produced.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Oswald Theodore Avery (1877-1955)

Oswald Theodore Avery studied strains of pneumococcus of the genus Streptococcus in the US in the first half of the twentieth century. This bacterium causes pneumonia, a common cause of death at the turn of the twentieth century. In a 1944 paper, Avery demonstrated with colleagues Colin Munro MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty that deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, instead of protein, formed the material of heritable transformation in bacteria. Avery helped untangle some of the relationships between genes and developmental processes.

Subject: People

Study of Fossilized Massospondylus Dinosaur Embryos from South Africa (1978-2012)

In 1978, James Kitching discovered two dinosaur embryos in a road-cut talus at Roodraai (Red Bend) in Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa. Kitching assigned the fossilized embryos to the species of long necked herbivores Massospondylus carinatus (longer vertebra) from the Early Jurassic period, between 200 and 183 million years ago. The embryos were partially visible but surrounded by eggshell and rock, called matrix. Kitching said that the eggs were too delicate to remove from the matrix without damage.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Organisms

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

Social Implications of Non-Invasive Blood Tests to Determine the Sex of Fetuses

By 2011, researchers in the US had established that non-invasive blood tests can accurately determine the gender of a human fetus as early as seven weeks after fertilization. Experts predicted that this ability may encourage the use of prenatal sex screening tests by women interested to know the gender of their fetuses. As more people begin to use non-invasive blood tests that accurately determine the sex of the fetus at 7 weeks, many ethical questions pertaining to regulation, the consequences of gender-imbalanced societies, and altered meanings of the parent-child relationship.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Ethics, Legal