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Germ Layers

A germ layer is a group of cells in an embryo that interact with each other as the embryo develops and contribute to the formation of all organs and tissues. All animals, except perhaps sponges, form two or three germ layers. The germ layers develop early in embryonic life, through the process of gastrulation. During gastrulation, a hollow cluster of cells called a blastula reorganizes into two primary germ layers: an inner layer, called endoderm, and an outer layer, called ectoderm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Processes

Charles Manning Child (1869-1954)

Born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on 2 February 1869, Charles Manning Child was the only surviving child of Mary Elizabeth and Charles Chauncey Child, a prosperous, old New England family. Growing up in Higganum, Connecticut, Child was interested in biology from an early age. He made extensive collections of plants and minerals on his family farm and went on to study biology at Wesleyan University, commuting from his family home. Child received his PhB in 1890 and MS in biology in 1892, and then went on to study in Leipzig after his parents death.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

On Growth and Form (1917), by Sir D'Arcy Thompson

Of Sir D'Arcy Thompson's nearly 300 publications, the theoretical treatise On Growth and Form, first published in 1917, remains the principal work for which he is remembered. This substantial book is still in print today, and merited an editorial review and introductory essays by two important twentieth century biologists, John Tyler Bonner and Stephen Jay Gould. Growth and Form was immediately well-received for both its literary style and its scientific significance, as discussed by the biologist Sir Peter Medawar.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Walter Edward Dandy (1886-1946)

Walter Edward Dandy studied abnormalities in the developing human brain in the United States in the twentieth century. He collaborated with pediatrician Kenneth Blackfan to provide the first clinical description of Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a congenital brain malformation in which the medial part of the brain, called the cerebellar vermis, is absent. Dandy also described the circulation of cerebral spinal fluid, the clear, watery fluid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Y-Chromosome in Animals

The Y-chromosome is one of a pair of chromosomes that determine the genetic sex of individuals in mammals, some insects, and some plants. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the development of new microscopic and molecular techniques, including DNA sequencing, enabled scientists to confirm the hypothesis that chromosomes determine the sex of developing organisms. In an adult organism, the genes on the Y-chromosome help produce the male gamete, the sperm cell. Beginning in the 1980s, many studies of human populations used the Y-chromosome gene sequences to trace paternal lineages.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Theories

Alec Jeffreys’s Experiments to Identify Individuals by Their Beta-globin Genes (1977-1979)

In a series of experiments in the late 1970s, Alec J. Jeffreys in the UK and Richard A. Flavell in the Netherlands developed a technique to detect variations in the DNA of different individuals. They compared fragments of DNA from individuals’ beta-globin genes, which produce a protein in hemoglobin. Previously, to identify biological material, scientists focused on proteins rather than on genes. But evidence about proteins enabled scientists only to exclude, but not to identify, individuals as the sources of the biological samples.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Matthias Jacob Schleiden (1804–1881)

Matthias Jacob Schleiden helped develop the cell theory in Germany during the nineteenth century. Schleiden studied cells as the common element among all plants and animals. Schleiden contributed to the field of embryology through his introduction of the Zeiss microscope lens and via his work with cells and cell theory as an organizing principle of biology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Edward Donnall Thomas (1920-2012)

Edward Donnall Thomas, an American physician and scientist, gained recognition in the scientific community for conducting the first bone marrow transplant, a pioneering form of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Bone marrow transplants are considered to be the first successful example of tissue engineering, a field within regenerative medicine that uses hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) as a vehicle for treatment. Prior to Thomas's groundbreaking work, most blood-borne diseases, including certain inherited and autoimmune diseases, were considered lethal.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

NovaSure Endometrial Ablation

NovaSure is a device for endometrial ablation, which is a procedure that removes the endometrium, that the US Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, approved for use on 28 September 2001. Endometrium is the tissue that lines the uterus. NovaSure destroys the endometrium by sending electric beams at the endometrium. Hologic, a medical technology company concerned with women’s health, developed NovaSure to treat menorrhagia, or heavy bleeding during menstruation. Menorrhagia is a common symptom of endometriosis. Endometriosis is the growth of the endometrium outside of the uterus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954)

Alan Mathison Turing was a British mathematician and computer scientist who lived in the early twentieth century. Among important contributions in the field of mathematics, computer science, and philosophy, he developed a mathematical model of morphogenesis. This model describing biological growth became fundamental for research on the process of embryo development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799)

Lazzaro Spallanzani's imaginative application of experimental methods, mastery of microscopy, and wide interests led him to significant contributions in natural history, experimental biology, and physiology. His detailed and thoughtful observations illuminated a broad spectrum of problems ranging from regeneration to the genesis of thunderclouds.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Development, Plasticity and Evolution of Butterfly Eyespot Patterns" (1996), by Paul M. Brakefield et al.

Paul M. Brakefield and his research team in Leiden, the Netherlands, examined the development, plasticity, and evolution of butterfly eyespot patterns, and published their findings in Nature in 1996. Eyespots are eye-shaped color patterns that appear on the wings of some butterflies and birds as well as on the skin of some fish and reptiles. In butterflies, such as the peacock butterfly Aglais, the eyespots resemble the eyes of birds and help butterflies deter potential predators.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“Causes of Death Among Stillbirths” (2011), by Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network Writing Group

In December 2011, the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network, or SCRN, published the article “Causes of Death Among Stillbirths” in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors of the article investigate the causes of stillbirth and possible reasons for the racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities in stillbirth rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, stillbirth is the death of a fetus at twenty or more weeks during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction

Morphogenesis

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Leon Chesley (1908-2000)

Leon Chesley studied hypertension, or high blood pressure, in pregnant women during the mid-twentieth century. Chesley studied preeclampsia and eclampsia, two hypertensive disorders found in approximately five percent of all US pregnancies. In New Jersey and New York, Chesley devoted over forty years to researching preeclampsia and eclampsia. Chesley conducted several long-term studies using the same group of women beginning from their pregnancies.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Ann Trow (Madame Restell) (1812–1878)

Self-proclaimed female physician Ann Trow was a women’s reproductive health specialist as well as an abortion provider in New York City, New York during the mid 1800s. Though she had no formal medical training or background, Trow provided women with healthcare and abortions under the alias Madame Restell. Restell gained attention across the United States for her career as a professional abortionist during a time when abortions were highly regulated and punishable with imprisonment. Restell was tried numerous times for carrying out abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Mesoderm

Mesoderm is one of the three germ layers, groups of cells that interact early during the embryonic life of animals and from which organs and tissues form. As organs form, a process called organogenesis, mesoderm interacts with endoderm and ectoderm to give rise to the digestive tract, the heart and skeletal muscles, red blood cells, and the tubules of the kidneys, as well as a type of connective tissue called mesenchyme. All animals that have only one plane of symmetry through the body, called bilateral symmetry, form three germ layers.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

“Pregnancy Established in an Infertile Patient After Transfer of a Donated Embryo Fertilized In Vitro” (1983), by Alan Trounson, John Leeton, Mandy Besanko, Carl Wood, and Angelo Conti

In 1983, researchers Alan Trounson, John Leeton, Carl Wood, Mandy Besanko, and Angelo Conti published the article “Pregnancy Established in an Infertile Patient After Transfer of a Donated Embryo Fertilized In Vitro” in The British Medical Journal. In the article, the authors discuss one of the first successful experiments using in vitro fertilization, or IVF, with the use of a human donor embryo at the Monash University and Queen Victoria Medical Center in Melbourne, Australia.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Publications, Reproduction, Processes

Charles Robert Cantor (1942- )

Charles Robert Cantor helped sequence the human genome, and he developed methods to non-invasively determine the genes in human fetuses. Cantor worked in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His early research focused on oligonucleotides, small molecules of DNA or RNA. That research enabled the development of a technique that Cantor subsequently used to describe nucleotide sequences of DNA, a process called sequencing, in humans. Cantor was the principal scientist for the Human Genome Project, for which scientists sequenced the entirety of the human genome in 2003.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920-1958)

Rosalind Elsie Franklin worked with X-ray crystallography at King's College London, UK, and she helped determine the helical structure of DNA in the early 1950s. Franklin's research helped establish molecular genetics, a field that investigates how heredity works on the molecular level. The discovery of the structure of DNA also made future research possible into the molecular basis of embryonic development, genetic disorders, and gene manipulation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis served as the backdrop for many scientific discoveries, including that of nerve growth factor (NGF). Many of the accomplishments in embryology at Washington University can be attributed to the influence of Viktor Hamburger. He served as chair of the zoology department for twenty-five years. One of the few Nobel Prizes given for embryological research was awarded to faculty members Hamburger hired; Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen won for their role in the discovery of nerve growth factor.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Pope Pius XI (1857-1939)

Pope Pius XI, born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, was born to the wealthy owner of a silk factory on 31 May 1857 in Desio, Italy. He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of eighteen, at which time he began a long life devoted to study, peacekeeping, and the betterment of societies around the world. Pius XI is noted here for his contribution to the Roman Catholic Church's early twentieth century approach to issues regarding contraception and abortion, which was presented in his December 1930 encyclical "Casti Connubii."

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Minnie Joycelyn Elders (1933–)

Minnie Joycelyn Elders, known as Joycelyn Elders, is a pediatrician and professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1953, Elders began to work with the US Army, where she trained as a physical therapist, being the only African American woman in her training class. Elders eventually became a medical doctor in 1956, specializing in pediatric endocrinology. In 1993, then US President Bill Clinton appointed Elders as the Surgeon General for the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which she served as until 1994.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Susceptibility Assay

Charles Manning Child designed an experimental test, the susceptibility assay, to measure the effects of different toxins on developmental processes. The susceptibility assay measured an organism s vulnerability to death when it was submerged in a noxious solution. The assay involved immersing an organism in a solution that contained a depressant or inhibitory substance, such as alcohol, and then measuring the responses of the organism. Child interpreted these measurements as revealing information about the relative levels of metabolic activity within the organism.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies