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The Debate over DNA Replication Before the Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1953–1957)
Between 1953 and 1957, before the Meselson-Stahl experiment verified semi-conservative replication of DNA, scientists debated how DNA replicated. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick proposed that DNA was composed of two helical strands that wound together in a coil. Their model suggested a replication mechanism, later termed semi-conservative replication, in which parental DNA strands separated and served as templates for the replication of new daughter strands.
Preformationism in the Enlightenment
Preformationism was a theory of embryological development used in the late seventeenth through the late eighteenth centuries. This theory held that the generation of offspring occurs as a result of an unfolding and growth of preformed parts. There were two competing models of preformationism: the ovism model, in which the location of these preformed parts prior to gestation was the maternal egg, and the spermism model, in which a preformed individual or homunculus was thought to exist in the head of each sperm.
The Cell in Development and Inheritance (1900), by Edmund Beecher Wilson
The Cell in Development and Inheritance, by Edmund Beecher Wilson, provided a textbook introduction to cell biology for generations of biologists in the twentieth century. In his book, Wilson integrated information about development, inheritance, chromosomes, organelles, and the structure and functions of cells. First published in 1896, the book started with 371 pages, grew to 483 pages in the second edition that appeared in 1900, and expanded to 1,231 pages by the third and final edition in 1925.
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.
Subject: Processes, Theories, Reproduction
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging to Visualize Fetal Abnormalities
Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a technique to create a three-dimensional image of a fetus. Doctors often use MRIs to image a fetuses after an ultrasound has detected an, or has been inconclusive about an, abnormality. In 1983 researchers in Scotland first used MRI to visualize a fetus. MRIs showed a greater level of fetal detail than ultrasound images, and researchers recognized the relevance of this technique as a means to gather information about fetal development and growth.
Subject: Technologies, Technologies, Reproduction
“Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate” (1953), by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling
In April 1953, Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling, published “Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate,” in the scientific journal Nature. The article contained Franklin and Gosling’s analysis of their X-ray diffraction pattern of thymonucleate or deoxyribonucleic acid, known as DNA. In the early 1950s, scientists confirmed that genes, the heritable factors that control how organisms develop, contained DNA. However, at the time scientists had not determined how DNA functioned or its three-dimensional structure.
Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Experiments by Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka in 2006 and 2007
In 2006, Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka reprogrammed mice fibroblast cells, which can produce only other fibroblast cells, to become pluripotent stem cells, which have the capacity to produce many different types of cells. Takahashi and Yamanaka also experimented with human cell cultures in 2007. Each worked at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan. They called the pluripotent stem cells that they produced induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) because they had induced the adult cells, called differentiated cells, to become pluripotent stem cells through genetic manipulation.
Cerebral Organoid as a Model System in the Study of Microcephaly
Scientists use cerebral organoids, which are artificially produced miniature organs that represent embryonic or fetal brains and have many properties similar to them, to help them study developmental disorders like microcephaly. In human embryos, cerebral tissue in the form of neuroectoderm appears within the first nine weeks of human development, and it gives rise to the brain and spinal cord.
Paul Kammerer (1880-1926)
Paul Kammerer conducted experiments on amphibians and marine animals at the Vivarium, a research institute in Vienna, Austria, in the early twentieth century. Kammerer bred organisms in captivity, and he induced them to develop particular adaptations, which Kammerer claimed the organismss offspring would inherit. Kammerer argued that his results demonstrated the inheritance of acquired characteristics, or Lamarckian inheritance. The Lamarckian theory of inheritance posits that individuals transmit acquired traits to their offspring.
Subject: Experiments, People
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.
Treatment of Pelvic Organ Prolapse in Women
Pelvic organ prolapse is a common condition in women that causes the pelvic organs to descend, often resulting from a weakened pelvic floor. Pelvic organs supported by the pelvic floor, such as the bladder, bowel, or uterus, can descend to such a degree that they project out from a woman’s body typically via the vagina. Pelvic floor stress or trauma, like vaginal childbirth, can cause pelvic organ prolapse. Women with pelvic organ prolapse also often experience other conditions, such as incontinence or the involuntary leakage of urine or fecal matter.
Subject: Reproduction, Disorders, Processes
Stanley Alan Plotkin (1932– )
Stanley Alan Plotkin developed vaccines in the United States during the mid to late twentieth century. Plotkin began his research career at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he studied the rubella virus. In pregnant women, the rubella virus caused congenital rubella syndrome in the fetus, which led to various malformations and birth defects. Using WI-38 cells, a line of cells that originated from tissues of aborted fetuses, Plotkin successfully created RA27/3, a weakened strain of the rubella virus, which he then used to develop a rubella vaccine.
Jérôme Lejeune (1926−1994)
Jérôme Lejeune was a French physician and researcher who studied genetics and developmental disorders. According to the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation, in 1958, Lejeune discovered that the existence of an extra twenty-first chromosome, a condition called Trisomy 21, causes Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome is a condition present in an individual since birth and is characterized by physical and developmental anomalies such as small ears, a short neck, heart defects, and short height as children and adults.
On the Generation of Animals, by Aristotle
Aristotle's On the Generation of Animals is referred to in Latin as De Generatione animalium. As with many of Aristotle's writings, the exact date of authorship is unknown, but it was produced in the latter part of the fourth century B.C. This book is the second recorded work on embryology that is treated as a subject of philosophy, being preceded by contributions in the Hippocratic corpus by about a century.
Chernobyl Heart (2003)
In 2003, HBO Original Programming released the documentary Chernobyl Heart. Maryann De Leo directed and produced the film, which is about the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident and how the radiation from that accident has affected people living in the area. Side effects have included mental disabilities, physical disabilities, and genetic mutations.
"Behavioral Thermoregulation by Turtle Embryos" (2011), by Wei-Guo Du, Bo Zhao, Ye Chen, and Richard Shine
In "Behavioral Thermoregulation by Turtle Embryos," published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April, 2011, Wei-Guo Du, Bo Zhao, Ye Chen, and Richard Shine report that turtle embryos can move towards warmer temperatures within the egg when presented with a small, 0.8 degrees Celsius gradient. This behavioral thermoregulation may benefit the embryo's fitness by accelerating the rate of development enough to decrease the incubation period by up to four and a half days. Embryos are generally thought to have little control over their surroundings.
"A Proposal for a New Method of Evaluation of the Newborn Infant" (1953), by Virginia Apgar
In 1953, Virginia Apgar published the article "A Proposal for a New Method for Evaluation of the Newborn Infant" about her method for scoring newborn infants directly after birth to assess their health and whether medical intervention was necessary. Apgar worked at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, New York, as an obstetrical anesthesiologist, a physician who administers pain medication during childbirth.
Forbes v. Napolitano (2000)
Forbes v. Napolitano (2000) was a US court case that established that Arizona researchers could use fetal tissues from induced abortions for basic scientific research, for instance, as a source of stem cells. The case challenged the constitutionality of the Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 36-2303 in the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals, a law that banned researchers from using fetal tissues from abortions for any type of medical experimentation or investigation. The Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals decision in Forbes v.
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.
Transvaginal Ultrasound-Guided Oocyte Retrieval
Transvaginal ultrasound-guided oocyte retrieval, also known as egg retrieval, is a surgical technique used by medical professionals to extract mature eggs directly from the women’s ovaries under the guidance of ultrasound imaging. In 1982, physicians Suzan Lenz and Jorgen Lauritsen at the University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark, proposed the technology to improve the egg collection aspect of in vitro fertilization, or IVF. During IVF, a healthcare practitioner must remove mature eggs from a woman’s ovaries to fertilize them with sperm outside of the body.
Subject: Technologies, Reproduction
“Women’s Right to Know” Informed Consent Informational Materials
As of 2021, twenty-eight US states have informed consent laws for abortion, which is a medical procedure to terminate pregnancy, often called Women’s Right to Know laws. Those laws often require the state government to develop informational materials that healthcare providers must give to women before an abortion. Informational materials generally include information about the process of fetal development, accompanied by illustrations or pictures, risks and effects of abortion, and alternatives to abortion.
Wilhelm Roux (1850-1924)
Wilhelm Roux was a nineteenth-century experimental embryologist who was best known for pioneering Entwicklungsmechanik, or developmental mechanics. Roux was born in Jena, Germany, on 9 June 1850, the only son of Clotilde Baumbach and a university fencing master, F. A. Wilhelm Ludwig Roux. Roux described himself as an aloof child, but when he was fourteen he cultivated a passion for science that was encouraged by the director at Oberrealschule in Meiningen.
Planned Parenthood Committee of Phoenix v. Maricopa County (1962)
In the 1962 case Planned Parenthood Committee of Phoenix v. Maricopa County, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Arizona Revised Statute 13-213, which banned the public advertising of contraceptive or abortion medication or services, was constitutional. However, the court also ruled that that Arizona Revised Statute 13-213 did not apply to Planned Parenthood's distribution of contraceptive information, allowing Planned Parenthood to continue distributing the information.
Subject: Legal, Organizations
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.
Subject: Outreach, Reproduction
Francois Jacob (1920-2013)
Francois Jacob studied in
bacteria and bacteriophages at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France,
in the second half of the twentieth century. In 1965, Jacob won the
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Andre M. Lwoff and
Jacques L. Monod for their work on the genetic control of enzyme
synthesis. Jacob studied how genes control and regulate metabolic
enzymes in the bacterium Escherichia
coli (E. coli) and in lysogenic
bacterial systems. He contributed to theories of transcriptional gene