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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

Francis Harry Compton Crick (1916-2004)

Francis Harry Compton Crick, who co-discovered the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in 1953 in Cambridge, England, also developed The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology, and further clarified the relationship between nucleotides and protein synthesis. Crick received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine that he shared with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins in 1962 for their discovery of the molecular structure of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin (1842-1921)

Petr Kropotkin proposed the theory of Pleistocene ice age, alternative theories of evolution based on embryology, and he advocated anarchist and communist social doctrines in Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He traveled in eastern Siberia and Manchuria from 1863 until 1867, and his subsequent publications about that area's geography became authoritative until the middle of the twentieth century.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome)

John Hilton Edwards first described the symptoms of the genetic disorder known as Trisomy 18 - one of the most common forms of trisomy, which occurs when cells have an extra copy of a chromosome, in humans - in 1960. Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards Syndrome, occurs approximately once per 6000 live births and is second in frequency only to Trisomy 21, or Down's Syndrome, as an autosomal trisomy. Trisomy 18 causes substantial developmental problems in utero.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

The Passing of the Great Race; or The Racial Basis of European History (1916), by Madison Grant

In 1916, eugenicist Madison Grant published the book The Passing of the Great Race; or The Racial Basis of European History, hereafter The Passing of the Great Race, where he claimed that northern Europeans, or Nordics, are biologically and culturally superior to the rest of humanity. Charles Scribner’s Sons in New York City, New York, published the volume. Grant claimed that the Nordic race was at risk of extinction and advocated for the creation of laws in the US to decrease the population of people he considered inferior.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"The Potency of the First Two Cleavage Cells in Echinoderm Development. Experimental Production of Partial and Double Formations" (1891-1892), by Hans Driesch

Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch was a late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century philosopher and developmental biologist. In the spring of 1891 Driesch performed experiments using two-celled sea urchin embryos, the results of which challenged the then-accepted understanding of embryo development. Driesch showed that the cells of an early embryo, when separated, could each continue to develop into normal larval forms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Cerebellum Development

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical, neurological, behavioral, and learning defects collectively grouped under the heading fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe combination of these defects under this heading, and is characterized by pre- and postnatal growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, and defects of the central nervous system (CNS).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Dickey-Wicker Amendment, 1996

The Dickey-Wicker Amendment is an amendment attached to the appropriations bills for the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education each year since 1996 restricting the use of federal funds for creating, destroying, or knowingly injuring human embryos. The Dickey-Wicker Amendment began as a rider (another name for an amendment) attached to House Resolution (H.R.) 2880. H.R.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

"On the Origin of Mitosing Cells" (1967), by Lynn Sagan

On the Origin of Mitosing Cells by Lynn Sagan appeared in the March 1967 edition of the Journal of Theoretical Biology. At the time the article was published, Lynn Sagan had divorced astronomer Carl Sagan, but kept his last name. Later, she remarried and changed her name to Lynn Margulis, and will be referred to as such throughout this article. In her 1967 article, Margulis develops a theory for the origin of complex cells that have enclosed nuclei, called eukaryotic cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Neural Tube Defects (NTD): Folic Acid and Pregnancy

In the US, one in 1000 births is affected by neural tube defects (NTD). A neural tube defect is a birth defect involving the malformation of body features associated with the brain and spinal cord. An NTD originates from and is characterized by incomplete closure of the neural tube, which is an organizer and precursor of the central nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

The Role of the Notch Signaling Pathway in Myogenesis

Among other functions, the Notch signaling pathway forestalls the process of myogenesis in animals. The Notch signaling pathway is a pathway in animals by which two adjacent cells within an organism use a protein named Notch to mechanically interact with each other. Myogenesis is the formation of muscle that occurs throughout an animal's development, from embryo to the end of life. The cellular precursors of skeletal muscle originate in somites that form along the dorsal side of the organism.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Processes

Multi-Fetal Pregnancy

In humans, multi-fetal pregnancy occurs when a mother carries more than one fetus during the pregnancy. The most common multi-fetal pregnancy is twins, but mothers have given birth to up to eight children (octuplets) from a single pregnancy. Multiple fetusus can result from the release of multiple eggs or multiple ovulations, the splitting of a single fertilized egg, and fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) which involves the insertion of many fertilized eggs into the mother's uterus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Robert Alan Good (1922-2003)

Robert Alan Good was an American physician and scientific researcher who explored the cellular mechanisms of immunity. His research and discoveries earned him the label of "father of modern immunology." Though his work in immunology is considered his greatest scientific achievement, Good is also well known for his work with tissue engineering. From his research on immunology, Good was able to perform the first successful allogeneic (donor and recipient are unrelated) bone marrow transplant.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"The linear arrangement of six sex-linked factors in drosophila, as shown by their mode of association” (1913), by Alfred Henry Sturtevant

In 1913, Alfred Henry Sturtevant published the results of experiments in which he showed how genes are arranged along a chromosome. Sturtevant performed those experiments as an undergraduate at Columbia University, in New York, New York, under the guidance of Nobel laureate Thomas Hunt Morgan. Sturtevant studied heredity using Drosophila, the common fruit fly. In his experiments, Sturtevant determined the relative positions of six genetic factors on a fly’s chromosome by creating a process called gene mapping.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

Arthur Earl Walker (1907-1995)

Arthur Earl Walker was a medical researcher and physician who studied the brain and neurosurgery in the United States during the twentieth century. Walker examined the connections of the thalamus to the rest of the brain and how the thalamus coordinates sensory signals. The thalamus is a cluster of nerve cells located between the two hemispheres of the brain and it is responsible for consciousness and sensory interpretation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Nicole Le Douarin and Charles Ordahl's Experiments on the Developmental Lineages of Somites

Through various studies developmental biologists have been able to determine that the muscles of the back, ribs, and limbs derive from somites. Somites are blocks of cells that contain distinct sections that diverge into specific types (axial or limb) of musculature and are an essential part of early vertebrate development. For many years the musculature of vertebrates was known to derive from the somites, but the exact developmental lineage of axial and limb muscle progenitor cells remained a mystery until Nicole Le Douarin and Charles P.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Development of Mifepristone for Use in Medication Abortions

In the 1980s, researchers at the pharmaceutical company Roussel-Uclaf in Paris, France, helped develop a biological compound called mifepristone. When a woman takes it, mifepristone interferes with the function of hormones involved in pregnancy and it can therefore be used to terminate pregnancies. In 2000, the US Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, also called RU 486, as part of a treatment to induce abortions using drugs instead of surgery, a method called medication abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction

George Otto Gey (1899-1970)

George Otto Gey was a scientist in the US who studied cells and cultivated the first continuous human cell line in 1951. Gey derived the cells for that cell line, called the HeLa cell line, from a woman called Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who had cervical cancer. Cell lines are a cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the organism from which they originated. Gey developed new techniques for in vitro, or laboratory-based, maintenance of organs and hormonal tissue, created new methods for cell cultivation, and researched nutritional media, or cell food.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Shoukhrat Mitalipov and Masahito Tachibana’s Mitochondrial Gene Replacement in Primate Offspring and Embryonic Stem Cells (2009)

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Masahito Tachibana, and their team of researchers replaced the mitochondrial genes of primate embryonic stem cells via spindle transfer. Spindle replacement, also called spindle transfer, is the process of removing the genetic material found in the nucleus of one egg cell, or oocyte, and placing it in another egg that had its nucleus removed. Mitochondria are organelles found in all cells and contain some of the cell’s genetic material. Mutations in the mitochondrial DNA can lead to neurodegenerative and muscle diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Austin Bradford Hill (1897-1991)

During the twentieth century, Austin Bradford Hill researched diseases and their causes in England and developed the Bradford Hill criteria, which comprise the minimal requirements that must be met for a causal relationship to be established between a factor and a disease. Hill also suggested that researchers should randomize clinical trials to evaluate the effects of a drug or treatment by monitoring large groups of people.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Translational Developmental Biology

Translational developmental biology is a growing approach to studying biological phenomena that explicitly aims to develop medical therapies. When discussing the generation of new therapies it is often argued that they will emerge as a "translation" from "fundamental biology." Although translational research is not a new term, "translational developmental biology" has been steadily gaining popularity as discoveries in cell and developmental biology, particularly those involving stem cells, provide a basis for regenerative medicine.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Neural Crest

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You (2015), by the British Broadcasting Corporation and The Open University

In 2015, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) partnered with The Open University to produce the three-part documentary series, Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You. Michael Mosley, a British television producer and journalist, hosts the documentary. Along with narrating animated scenes of a growing fetus in the womb, Mosley meets with individuals around the world who experienced mutations that can arise in the womb. Introduced over the course of the three episodes, several people share their personal stories of how their bodies did not develop correctly prior to birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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

"On the Permanent Life of Tissues outside of the Organism" (1912), by Alexis Carrel

'On the Permanent Life of Tissues outside of the Organism' reports Alexis Carrel's 1912 experiments on the maintenance of tissue in culture media. At the time, Carrel was a French surgeon and biologist working at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City. In his paper, Carrel reported that he had successfully maintained tissue cultures, which derived from connective tissues of developing chicks and other tissue sources, by serially culturing them.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments