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Recombinant Gonadotropins Used in Fertility Treatments
First manufactured in 1988 by Serono laboratories, recombinant gonadotropins are synthetic hormones that can stimulate egg production in women for use in fertility treatments. Recombinant gonadotropins are artificially created using recombinant DNA technology, a technology that joins together DNA from different organisms. In vertebrates, naturally-occurring gonadotropins regulate the growth and function of the gonads, known as testes in males and ovaries in females.
Subject: Technologies, Reproduction
“Mesenchymal and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells: General Insights and Clinical Perspectives” (2015), by Helena D. Zomer, Antanásio S. Vidane, Natalia G. Gonçalves, and Carlos E. Ambrósio
In 2015, biologist Helena D. Zomer and colleagues published the review article “Mesenchymal and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells: General Insights and Clinical Perspectives” or “Mesenchymal and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells” in Stem Cells and Cloning: Advances and Applications. The authors reviewed the biology of three types of pluripotent stem cells, embryonic stem cells, or ESCs, mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, and induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells. Pluripotent stem cells are a special cell type that can give rise to other types of cells and are essential for development.
Early in the process of development, vertebrate embryos develop a fold on the neural plate where the neural and epidermal ectoderms meet, called the neural crest. The neural crest produces neural crest cells (NCCs), which become multiple different cell types and contribute to tissues and organs as an embryo develops. A few of the organs and tissues include peripheral and enteric (gastrointestinal) neurons and glia, pigment cells, cartilage and bone of the cranium and face, and smooth muscle.
The Neuron Doctrine (1860-1895)
The neuron doctrine is a concept formed during the turn of the twentieth century that describes the properties of neurons, the specialized cells that compose the nervous system. The neuron doctrine was one of two major theories on the composition of the nervous system at the time. Advocates of the neuron doctrine claimed that the nervous system was composed of discrete cellular units. Proponents of the alternative reticular theory, on the other hand, argued that the entire nervous system was a continuous network of cells, without gaps or synapses between the cells.
Allan Charles Wilson (1934-1991)
Allan C. Wilson studied genes, proteins, and body structures of animals and humans in the US during the second half of the twentieth century. Wilson also studied human evolution. Although morphology and behaviors of humans (Homo sapiens) and great apes differ, Wilson found that they have biochemical and genetic similarities. Wilson and his colleagues calculated the time period of humans' and African apes' common ancestor.
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.
Effect of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Radial Glial Cells
Prenatal alcohol (ethanol) exposure can have dramatic effects on the development of the central nervous system (CNS), including morphological abnormalities and an overall reduction in white matter of the brain. The impact of ethanol on neural stem cells such as radial glia (RG) has proven to be a significant cause of these defects, interfering with the creation and migration of neurons and glial cells during development.
Subject: Disorders, Reproduction
Alexis Carrel's Immortal Chick Heart Tissue Cultures (1912-1946)
In an effort to develop tissue culture techniques for long-term tissue cultivation, French surgeon and biologist Alexis Carrel, and his associates, produced and maintained a series of chick heart tissue cultures at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City. From 1912 to 1946, this series of chick heart tissue cultures remained alive and dividing. Since the duration of this culture greatly exceeded the normal chick life span, the cells were deemed immortal.
Retinoids As Teratogens
Vitamin A (retinol) is an essential vitamin in the daily functioning of human beings that helps regulate cellular differentiation of epithelial tissue. Studies have shown that an excess of vitamin A can affect embryonic development and result in teratogenesis, or the production of birth defects in a developing embryo. Excess intake of vitamin A and retinoids by pregnant women often results malformations to fetuses' skulls, faces, limbs, eyes, central nervous system.
Subject: Disorders, Reproduction
A Series of YouTube Videos Detailing the “CRISPR Babies” Experiment (2018), by He Jiankui
In 2018, He Jiankui uploaded a series of videos to a YouTube channel titled “The He Lab” that detailed one of the first instances of a successful human birth after genome editing had been performed on an embryo using CRISPR-cas9. CRISPR-cas9 is a genome editing tool derived from bacteria that can be used to cut out and replace specific sequences of DNA. He genetically modified embryos at his lab in Shenzhen, China, to make them immune to contracting HIV through indirect perinatal transmission from their father, who was infected with the virus.
Subject: Publications, Experiments, Ethics
Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson’s Experiments on the Freezing of Bull Spermatozoa (1950–1952)
In 1952, researchers Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson, who worked at the Animal Research Center in Cambridge, England, detailed several experiments on protocols for freezing bull semen for use in the artificial insemination of cows. Freezing sperm extends the life of a viable sperm sample and allows it to be used at later times, such as in artificial insemination. The researchers examined the effects of freezing conditions on bull sperm and how well they produce fertilized embryos once thawed.
The term morphogenesis generally refers to the processes by which order is created in the developing organism. This order is achieved as differentiated cells carefully organize into tissues, organs, organ systems, and ultimately the organism as a whole. Questions centered on morphogenesis have aimed to uncover the mechanisms responsible for this organization, and developmental biology textbooks have identified morphogenesis as one of the main challenges in the field. The concept of morphogenesis is intertwined with those of differentiation, growth, and reproduction.
Camillo Golgi (1843–1926)
Camillo Golgi studied the central nervous system during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Italy, and he developed a staining technique to visualize brain cells. Called the black reaction, Golgi’s staining technique enabled him to see the cellular structure of brain cells, called neurons, with much greater precision. Golgi also used the black reaction to identify structures within animal cells like the internal reticular apparatus that stores, packs, and modifies proteins, later named the Golgi apparatus in his honor.
Stanley Paul Leibo (1937–2014)
Stanley Paul Leibo studied the cryopreservation of embryos in the US in the twentieth century. Cryopreservation is a method of preserving biological material through freezing. Early in his career, Leibo collaborated with other scientists to study why cells were oftentimes injured during freezing. Later, Leibo and his team accomplished one of the first successful births using previously-frozen mammalian embryos.
Subject: People, Technologies
Nikolai Ivanovic Vavilov (1887-1943)
Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov proposed theories of plant genetic diversity and participated in the political debate about genetics in Soviet Russia in the early twentieth century. Vavilov collected plant species around the world, building one of the first and most comprehensive seed banks, and he spent much of his life researching plant breeding and genetics. Vavilov also developed a theory of the historical centers of origin of cultivated plants. Vavilov spent most of his scientific career in Russia, although he studied abroad and traveled extensively.
Matthew Howard Kaufman (1942–2013)
Matthew Kaufman was a professor of anatomy at the University of Edinburgh, in Edinburgh, UK, who specialized in mouse anatomy, development, and embryology during the late twentieth century. According to the The Herald, he was the first, alongside his colleague Martin Evans, to isolate and culture embryonic stem cells. Researchers initially called those cells Evans-Kaufman cells. In 1992, Kaufman published The Atlas of Mouse Development, a book that included photographs of mice development and mice organs over time.
In 1881 British opthalmologist Warren Tay made an unusual observation. He reported a cherry-red spot on the retina of a one-year-old patient, a patient who was also showing signs of progressive degeneration of the central nervous system as manifested in the child's physical and mental retardation. This cherry-red spot is a characteristic that would eventually come to be associated with metabolic neurological disorders like Sandhoff, GM-1, Niemann-Pick, and, to the credit of Tay, the lysosomal storage disorder known as Tay-Sachs disease.
Roy John Britten (1919-2012)
Roy John Britten studied DNA sequences in the US in the second
half of the twentieth century, and he helped discover repetitive
elements in DNA sequences. Additionally, Britten helped propose
models and concepts of gene regulatory networks. Britten studied the
organization of repetitive elements and, analyzing data from the
Human Genome Project, he found that the repetitive elements in DNA
segments do not code for proteins, enzymes, or cellular parts.
Britten hypothesized that repetitive elements helped cause cells to
“Perspectives on the Properties of Stem Cells” (2005), by Ernest McCulloch and James Till
In 2005, Ernest McCulloch and James Till published the article “Perspectives on the Properties of Stem Cells,” which discusses the various properties and future possibilities for the use of stem cells. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can develop into several different cell types. In the article published in the journal Nature on 1 October 2005, the authors say they wrote the article to dispel misconceptions about what stem cells are, what they do, address some controversies surrounding stem cells, and discuss potential uses of stem cells.
Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov (Élie Metchnikoff) (1845-1916)
Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov studied phagocytes, immune function, and starfish embryos in Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Mechnikov adopted the French form of his name, Élie Metchnikoff, in the last twenty-five years of his life. In 1908, he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Paul Ehrlich for their contributions to immunology. Mechnikov discovered phagocytes, immune cells that protect organisms by ingesting foreign particles or microorganisms, by conducting experiments on starfish larvae.
The epigenetic landscape is a concept representing embryonic development. It was proposed by Conrad Hal Waddington to illustrate the various developmental pathways a cell might take toward differentiation. The epigenetic landscape integrates the connected concepts of competence, induction, and regulative abilities of the genes into a single model designed to explain cellular differentiation, a long standing problem in embryology.
"Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research: Executive Summary" (1999), by the US National Bioethics Advisory Commission
Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research: Executive Summary was published in September 1999 by The US National Bioethics Advisory Commission in response to a national debate about whether or not the US federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research. Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research recommended policy to US President William Clinton's administration, which advocated for federal spending on the use of stem research on stem cells that came from embryos left over from in vitro fertilization (IVF) fertility treatments.
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.
"Hybrids and Chimeras: A Consultation on the Ethical and Social Implications of Creating Human/Animal Embryos in Research" (2007), by the HFEA
To educate its citizens about research into chimeras made from human and non-human animal cells, the United Kingdom's Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority published the consultation piece Hybrids and Chimeras: A Consultation on the Ethical and Social Implications of Creating Human/Animal Embryos in Research, in 2007.
Gene Transfer Strategy Used to Treat Tay - Sachs Disease (2005), by Sabata Martino’s Research Group
In the early 2000s, Sabata Martino and a team of researchers in Italy and Germany showed that they could reduce the symptoms of Tay-Sachs in afflicted mice by injecting them with a virus that infected their cells with a gene they lacked. Tay-Sachs disease is a fatal degenerative disorder that occurs in infants and causes rapid motor and mental impairment, leading to death at the ages of three to five. In gene therapy, researchers insert normal genes into cells that have missing or defective genes in order to correct genetic disorders.