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Dissertation: Lessons from Embryos: Haeckel’s Embryo Drawings, Evolution, and Secondary Biology Textbooks

Haeckel believed that the development of an embryo revealed the adult stages of the organism’s ancestors. Haeckel represented this idea with drawings of vertebrate embryos at similar developmental stages. This is Haeckel’s embryo grid, the most common of all illustrations in biology textbooks. Yet, Haeckel’s embryo grids are much more complex than any textbook explanation. I examined 240 high school biology textbooks, from 1907 to 2010, for embryo grids.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Publications, 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

August Antonius Rauber (1841-1917)

August Antonius Rauber was an embryologist and anatomist who examined gastrulation in avian embryos. He examined the formation of the blastopore, epiblast, and primitive streak during chick development. Subsequent researchers have further studied Rauber's findings, which has led to new discoveries in embryology and developmental biology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“Effect of Vaginal Sildenafil on the Outcome of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) After Multiple IVF Failures Attributed to Poor Endometrial Development” (2002), by Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch

Researchers Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch gave Viagra, also known as sildenafil, to women undergoing fertility treatment to test whether the medication could improve fertility and pregnancy rates. The researchers proposed that Viagra, typically indicated to treat erectile dysfunction in men, would help women with a history of failed past fertility treatments by thickening their endometrial lining, which is the layer of tissue in the uterus where an embryo implants during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction, Disorders

The Blastoderm in Chicks During Early Gastrulation

This image shows a chicken (Gallus gallus) embryo undergoing gastrulation in stage four (18-19 hrs after laying) according to the Hamburger-Hamilton staging series. At this point in time the chicken embryo is a blastoderm (shown in blue). The first magnification of the embryo shows that the blastoderm cell layers have thickened to form the primitive streak and Hensen's node. The primitive streak extends from the posterior (P) region to the anterior (A) region. The second rectangular magnification shows the blastoderm cross-sectioned through the primitive streak.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Processes, Organisms, Theories

Edward Drinker Cope's Law of Acceleration of Growth

The Law of Acceleration of Growth is a theory proposed by Edward Drinker Cope in the US during the nineteenth century. Cope developed it in an attempt to explain the evolution of genera by appealing to changes in the developmental timelines of organisms. Cope proposed this law as an additional theory to natural selection.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Christian Heinrich Pander (1794-1865)

Christian Heinrich Pander, often remembered as the father of embryology, also explored the fields of osteology, zoology, geology, and anatomy. He was born in Riga, Latvia, on 24 July 1794. Pander, with an eclectic history of research, is best remembered for his discovery and explanation of the structure of the chick blastoderm, a term he coined. In doing so, Pander was able to achieve the goal set forth by his teacher, Ignaz Döllinger, to reinvigorate the study of the chick embryo as a means of further exploring the science of embryology as a whole.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Experiments on Embryonic Induction III. A Note on Inductions by Chick Primitive Streak Transplanted to the Rabbit Embryo" (1934), by Conrad Hal Waddington

Conrad Hal Waddington's "Experiments on Embryonic Induction III," published in 1934 in the Journal of Experimental Biology, describes the discovery that the primitive streak induces the mammalian embryo. Waddington's hypothesis was that a transplanted primitive streak could induce neural tissue in the ectoderm of the rabbit embryo. The primitive streak defines the axis of an embryo and is capable of inducing the differentiation of various tissues in a developing embryo during gastrulation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Hox Genes and the Evolution of Vertebrate Axial Morphology Experiment (1995)

In 1995, researchers Ann Burke, Craig Nelson, Bruce Morgan, and Cliff Tabin in the US studied the genes that regulate the construction of vertebra in developing chick and mouse embryos, they showed similar patterns of gene regulation across both species, and they concluded that those patterns were inherited from an ancestor common to all vertebrate animals. The group analyzed the head-to-tail (anterior-posterior) axial development of vertebrates, as the anterior-posterior axis showed variation between species over the course of evolutionary time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Quickening

Quickening, the point at which a pregnant woman can first feel the movements of the growing embryo or fetus, has long been considered a pivotal moment in pregnancy. Over time, this experience has been used in a variety of contexts, ranging from representing the point of ensoulment to determining whether an abortion was legal to indicating the gender of the unborn baby; philosophy, theology, and law all address the idea of quickening in detail. Beginning with Aristotle, quickening divided the developmental stages of embryo and fetus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

Nerve Growth Factor

Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a signaling protein and growth factor implicated in a wide range of development and maintenance functions. NGF was discovered through a series of experiments in the 1950s on the development of the chick nervous system. Since its discovery, NGF has been found to act in a variety of tissues throughout development and adulthood. It has been implicated in immune function, stress response, nerve maintenance, and in neurodegenerative diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

The Meckel-Serres Conception of Recapitulation

Johann Friedrich Meckel and Antoine Etienne Reynaud Augustin Serres developed in the early 1800s the basic principles of what later became called the Meckel-Serres Law. Meckel and Serres both argued that fetal deformities result when development prematurely stops, and they argued that these arrests characterized lower life forms, through which higher order organisms progress during normal development. The concept that the embryos of higher order organisms progress through successive stages in which they resemble lower level forms is called recapitulation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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

De ovi mammalium et hominis genesi (1827), by Karl Ernst von Baer

De ovi mammalium et hominis genesi (On the Genesis of the Ovum of Mammals and of Men) is an 1827 pamphlet by Karl Ernst von Baer about the anatomical observation and description of the egg (ovum) of mammals, like dogs and humans. The pamphlet detailed evidence for the existence of the ovum at the beginning of the developmental process in mammals.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Ernst Haeckel's Biogenetic Law (1866)

The biogenetic law is a theory of development and evolution proposed by Ernst Haeckel in Germany in the 1860s. It is one of several recapitulation theories, which posit that the stages of development for an animal embryo are the same as other animals' adult stages or forms. Commonly stated as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, the biogenetic law theorizes that the stages an animal embryo undergoes during development are a chronological replay of that species' past evolutionary forms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"The Development of the Turtle Carapace" (1989), by Ann Campbell Burke

Ann Campbell Burke examines the development and evolution of vertebrates, in particular, turtles. Her Harvard University experiments, described in Development of the Turtle Carapace: Implications for the Evolution of a Novel Bauplan, were published in 1989. Burke used molecular techniques to investigate the developmental mechanisms responsible for the formation of the turtle shell.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

An Atlas of Fertilization and Karyokinesis of the Ovum (1895), by Edmund Beecher Wilson

Edmund Beecher Wilson in the US published An Atlas of Fertilization and Karyokinesis of the Ovum (hereafter called An Atlas) in 1895. The book presents photographs by photographer Edward Leaming that capture stages of fertilization, the fusion of sperm and egg and early development of sea urchin (Toxopneustes variegatus) ova, or egg cell. Prior to An Atlas, no one photographed of eggcell division in clear detail. Wilson obtained high quality images of egg cells by cutting the cells into thin sections and preserving them throughout different stages of development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction

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

"Cellular death in morphogenesis of the avian wing" (1962), by John W. Saunders Jr., et al.

In the early 1960s, John W. Saunders Jr., Mary T. Gasseling, and Lilyan C. Saunders in the US investigated how cells die in the developing limbs of chick embryos. They studied when and where in developing limbs many cells die, and they studied the functions of cell death in wing development. At a time when only a few developmental biologists studied cell death, or apoptosis, Saunders and his colleagues showed that researchers could use embryological experiments to uncover the causal mechanisms of apotosis.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

In the Womb (2005), by Toby Mcdonald and National Geographic Channel

Written, produced, and directed by Toby Mcdonald, the 2005 National Geographic Channel film In the Womb uses the most recent technology to provide an intricate glimpse into the prenatal world. The technologies used, which include advanced photography, computer graphics, and 4-D ultrasound imaging, help to realistically illustrate the process of development and to answer questions about the rarely seen development of a human being.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction

Facial Abnormalities of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical, neurological, behavioral, and learning defects collectively grouped under the heading Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was first defined in 1973 as a condition characterized by pre- and postnatal growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, and defects of the central nervous system. The pattern of facial defects that occur as a result of ethanol exposure during development primarily affects the midline of the face, altering morphology of the eyes, nose, and lips.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Julia Barlow Platt (1857-1935)

Julia Barlow Platt studied neural crests in animal embryos and became involved in politics in the US during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She researched how body and head segments formed in chicks (Gallus gallus) and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias). Platt observed that in the mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), the coordinated migration of neural crest cells in the embryo produced parts of the nervous system, bones, and connective tissues in the head.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Life's Greatest Miracle (2001), by Julia Cort and NOVA

The Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) documentary Life's Greatest Miracle (abbreviated Miracle, available at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/miracle/program.html), is arguably one of the most vivid illustrations of the making of new human life. Presented as part of the PBS television series NOVA, Miracle is a little less than an hour long and was first aired 20 November 2001. The program was written and produced by Julia Cort and features images by renowned Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction

Birth without Violence (1975), by Frederick Leboyer

In Birth without Violence (1975), French obstetrician Frederick Leboyer describes in poetic form the possible perceptions and feelings of embryos and fetuses before, during, and after birth. His work has helped to promote a gentler and more sensitive birthing method with the goal of easing the newborn's transition from the womb to the outside world. Leboyer's birthing method influenced later birth techniques such as water birth and unassisted childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction