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Essay: Review of Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos

To Lynn M. Morgan, the Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology at Mt. Holyoke College, nothing says life more than a dead embryo. In her easily readable book, Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos, Morgan brings together cultural phenomena, ethics, and embryology to show that even dead embryos and fetuses have their own stories to tell. As an anthropologist, Morgan is interested in many things, including the science of embryology and its history. But she also wants to know how culture influences our views on embryos and the material practices that accompany their study.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Publications

Homeobox Genes and the Homeobox

Homeobox genes are a cluster of regulatory genes that are spatially and temporally expressed during early embryological development. They are interesting from both a developmental and evolutionary perspective since their sequences are highly conserved and shared across an enormously wide array of living taxa.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Embryos in Wax (2002), by Nick Hopwood

Embryos in Wax: Models from the Ziegler Studio is a history of embryo wax modeling written by science historian Nick Hopwood. Published by the Whipple Museum of the History of Science University of Cambridge and the Institute of the History of Medicine University of Bern, 2002, the book, like the wax models, helps exemplify the visual and material culture of science.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Felix Anton Dohrn

Felix Anton Dohrn is best remembered as the founder of the Stazione Zoologica di Napoli, the world' s first permanent laboratory devoted to the study of marine organisms. Dohrn was born on 29 December 1840 in Stettin, Pomerania (now Poland), to a wealthy merchant family. Dohrn's paternal grandfather, Heinrich, trained as a surgeon and then established a sugar refinery, while Dohrn's father, Carl August Dohrn, who inherited the family business, became interested in natural history through Alexander von Humboldt, a family friend.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Hybrids and Chimeras: A report on the findings of the consultation" by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in October, 2007

In 2007, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in London, UK, published Hybrids and Chimeras: A Report on the Findings of the Consultation, which summarized a public debate about research on, and suggested policy for, human animal chimeras. The HFEA formulated the report after conducting a series of surveys and debates from earlier in 2007. The HFEA issued a statement in September 2007, followed by an official report published on 1 October 2007. Their report on human-animal chimeras set a worldwide precedent for discussions of the ethical use of those embryos in labs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Legal, Outreach

The Origin of Species: "Chapter Thirteen: Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs" (1859), by Charles R. Darwin

Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs is the thirteenth chapter of Charles Darwin's book The Origin of Species, first published in England in 1859. The book details part of Darwin's argument for the common ancestry of life and natural selection as the cause of speciation. In this chapter, Darwin summarizes the evidence for evolution by connecting observations of development in organisms to the processes of natural selection.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Eduard Friedrich Wilhelm Pflüger (1829-1910)

Eduard Friedrich Wilhelm Pflüger was a physiologist known for his research on respiration, the respiratory quotient, experimenting on the effects of electricity on muscles and nerves, and his study of the ovaries and egg development. His experiments on how the gravitational orientation of frog eggs affects their cleavage plane inspired embryologists such as Wilhelm Roux and Gustav Born to conduct their own experiments using frog eggs.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Spemann-Mangold Organizer

The Spemann-Mangold organizer, also known as the Spemann organizer, is a cluster of cells in the developing embryo of an amphibian that induces development of the central nervous system. Hilde Mangold was a PhD candidate who conducted the organizer experiment in 1921 under the direction of her graduate advisor, Hans Spemann, at the University of Freiburg in Freiburg, German. The discovery of the Spemann-Mangold organizer introduced the concept of induction in embryonic development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

"On the Induction of Embryonic Primordia by Implantation of Organizers from Different Species" (1924), Hilde Mangold's Dissertation

Hilde Proscholdt Mangold was a doctoral student at the Zoological Institute at the University of Freiburg in Freiburg, Germany, from 1920-1923. Mangold conducted research for her dissertation 'On the Induction of Embryonic Primordia by Implantation of Organizers from Different Species' ('Ueber Induktion von Embryonanlagen durch Implantation artfremder Organisatoren'), under the guidance of Hans Spemann, a professor of zoology at the University of Freiburg.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

Jane Marion Oppenheimer (1911-1966)

Jane Marion Oppenheimer, embryologist and historian of science and medicine, was born on 19 September 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Sylvia Stern and James H. Oppenheimer. After studying zoology at Bryn Mawr College, Oppenheimer received her AB degree in 1932. Oppenheimer received her PhD in embryology at Yale University in 1935 and worked as a research fellow from 1935-1936. While at Yale she was influenced by the work of Ross Granville Harrison and John Spangler Nicholas, the latter of whom was Oppenheimer's PhD advisor.

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

"Health Status of Vietnam Veterans III. Reproductive Outcomes and Child Health" (1988), by the US Centers for Disease Control

In 1988, the US Centers for Disease Control published 'Health Status of Vietnam Veterans III. Reproductive Outcomes and Child Health,' which summarized part of the results of the Vietnam Experience Study commissioned by US Congress to assess the health of US Vietnam veterans. They published the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The most heavily used herbicide in the Vietnam, Agent Orange, had previously been found to contain a contaminant linked to birth defects in rats.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Wilhelm August Oscar Hertwig (1849-1922)

Wilhelm August Oscar Hertwig contributed to embryology through his studies of cells in development and his discovery that only one spermatozoon is necessary to fertilize an egg. He was born 21 April 1849 to Elise Trapp and Carl Hertwig in Hessen, Germany. After his brother Richard was born the family moved to Muhlhausen in Thuringen where the boys were educated. The two brothers later attended the university in Jena from 1868 to 1888 and studied under Ernst Haeckel, who later convinced Hertwig to leave chemistry and pursue medicine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Developmental Capacity of Nuclei Transplanted from Keratinized Skin Cells of Adult Frogs" (1975), by John Gurdon, Ronald Laskey, and O. Raymond Reeves

In 1975 John Gurdon, Ronald Laskey, and O. Raymond Reeves published "Developmental Capacity of Nuclei Transplanted from Keratinized Skin Cells of Adult Frogs," in the Journal of Embryology and Experimental Morphology. Their article was the capstone of a series of experiments performed by Gurdon during his time at Oxford and Cambridge, using the frog species Xenopus laevis. Gurdon's first experiment in 1958 showed that the nuclei of Xenopus cells maintained their ability to direct normal development when transplanted.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

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

The Effects of Gene Regulation on Aging in Caenorhabditis elegans (2003)

In 2003, molecular biology and genetics researchers Coleen T. Murphy, Steven A. McCarroll, Cornelia I. Bargmann, Andrew Fraser, Ravi S. Kamath, Julie Ahringer, Hao Li, and Cynthia Kenyon conducted an experiment that investigated the cellular aging in, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) nematodes. The researchers investigated the interactions between the transcription factor DAF-16 and the genes that regulate the production of an insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1-like) protein related to the development, reproduction, and aging in C. elegans.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes Associated with a Trial of Labor after Prior Cesarean Delivery” (2004), Mark B. Landon et al.

In 2004 Mark Landon and his colleagues in the United States published “Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes Associated with a Trial of Labor after Prior Cesarean Delivery,” which compared the risks of vaginal delivery and cesarean section for delivery of a fetus after a previous cesarean delivery. During a cesarean section, a physician surgically removes a fetus from a pregnant woman through an incision in her abdomen. By the late 1900s, most clinical guidelines viewed attempting a vaginal birth after a previous cesarean delivery as a reasonable option for most women.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution" (1987), by Rebecca Louise Cann, Mark Stoneking, and Allan Charles Wilson

In 1987 Rebecca Louise Cann, Mark Stoneking, and Allan Charles Wilson published Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution in the journal Nature. The authors compared mitochondrial DNA from different human populations worldwide, and from those comparisons they argued that all human populations had a common ancestor in Africa around 200,000 years ago. Mitochondria DNA (mtDNA) is a small circular genome found in the subcellular organelles, called mitochondria.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

"In vitro Experiments on the Effects of Mouse Sarcomas 180 and 37 on the Spinal and Sympathetic Ganglia of the Chick Embryo" (1954), by Rita Levi-Montalcini, Viktor Hamburger, and Hertha Meyer

"In vitro Experiments on the Effects of Mouse Sarcomas 180 and 37 on the Spinal and Sympathetic Ganglia of the Chick Embryo" were experiments conducted by Rita Levi-Montalcini in conjunction with Viktor Hamburger and Hertha Meyer and published in Cancer Research in 1954. In this series of experiments, conducted at the University of Brazil, Levi-Montalcini demonstrated increased nerve growth by introducing specific tumors (sarcomas) to chick ganglia. Ganglia are clusters of nerve cells, from which nerve fibers emerge.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Epidermal Growth Factor

Epidermal growth factor is a signaling molecule that stimulates the growth of epidermal tissues during development and throughout life. Stanley Cohen discovered epidermal growth factor (EGF) during studies of nerve growth factor as a side effect of other experiments. EGF stimulates tissue growth by initiating a variety of cellular mechanisms. This work led to the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Anencephaly

Anencephaly is an open neural tube defect, meaning that part of the neural tube does not properly close or that it has reopened during early embryogenesis. An embryo with anencephaly develops without the top of the skull, but retains a partial skull, including the face. Anencephaly is one of the most common birth defects of the neural tube, occurring at a rate of approximately one in one thousand human pregnancies. The condition can be caused by environmental exposure to chemicals, dietary deficiencies, or genetic mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Gordon Watkins Douglas (1921-2000)

Gordon Watkins Douglas researched cervical cancer, breach delivery, and treatment of high blood pressure during pregnancy in the US during the twentieth century. He worked primarily at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York, New York. While at Bellevue, he worked with William E. Studdiford to develop treatments for women who contracted infections as a result of illegal abortions performed throughout the US in unsterile environments.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications