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Pope Innocent XI (1611-1689)

Pope Innocent XI, born Benedetto Odescalchi, made considerable contributions to the Roman Catholic approach to embryology by condemning several propositions on liberal moral theology in 1679, including two related to abortion and ensoulment. His rejection of these principles strengthened the Church's stance against abortion and for the idea of "hominization," meaning the presence of human qualities before birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Patrick Christopher Steptoe (1913-1988)

Patrick Christopher Steptoe was a British gynecologist responsible for major advances in gynecology and reproductive technology. Throughout his career Steptoe promoted laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgical technique that allows a view inside the abdominal cavity, successfully advancing its usefulness in gynecology. After partnering with embryologist Robert Edwards in 1966, the pair performed the first in vitro fertilization in humans.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Congenital Vertebral Defects

The spinal column is the central structure in the vertebrate body from which stability, movement, and posture all derive. The vertebrae of the spine are organized into four regions (listed in order from cranial to caudal): cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and pelvic. These regions are classified by their differences in curvature. The human spine usually consists of thirty-three vertebrae, seven of which are cervical (C1-C7), twelve are thoracic (T1-T12), five are lumbar (L1-L5), and nine are pelvic (five fused as the sacrum and four fused as the coccyx).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

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

The Development of the Neural Crest and the Migration of Neural Crest Cells (NCCs) in the Embryos of Various Vertebrates

This diagram shows how NCCs migrate differently in rats, birds and amphibians. The arrows represent both chronology of NCCs migration and the differential paths that NCCs follow in different classes of animals. The solid black portion of each illustration represents the neural crest, and the large black dots in (c) and in (f) represent the neural crest cells. The speckled sections that at first form a basin in (a) and then close to form a tube in (f) represent the neural ectoderm. The solid white portions represent the epidermal ectoderm.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Theories, Processes

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

"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

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

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

MicroSort

"MicroSort, developed in 1990 by the Genetics and IVF Institute, is a form of pre-conception sex selection technology for humans. Laboratories located around the world use MicroSort technology to help couples increase their chances of conceiving a child of their desired sex. MicroSort separates male sperm cells based on which sex chromosome they contain, which results in separated semen samples that contain a higher percentage of sperm cells that carry the same sex chromosome.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Eric Wieschaus (1947- )

Eric Wieschaus studied how genes cause fruit fly larvae to develop in the US and Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, Wieschaus and colleague Christiane Nusslein-Volhard described genes and gene products that help form the fruit fly body plan and establish the larval segments during embryogenesis. This work earned Wieschaus and Nüsslein-Volhard the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Fortunio Liceti (1577–1657)

Fortunio Liceti studied natural philosophy and medicine in Italy during the first half of the seventeenth century. Liceti wrote greater than seventy works on a wide range of topics, including the human soul, reproduction, and birth defects observed in animals and human infants. In the seventeenth century, people commonly addressed birth defects using superstition and considered them as signs of evil, possibly caused by spiritual or supernatural entities. Liceti described infants with birth defects as prodigies and monsters to be admired and studied rather than feared.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Harald zur Hausen (1936–)

Harald zur Hausen studied viruses and discovered that certain strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease, can cause cervical cancer, in Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Zur Hausen spent his research career identifying the viruses that cause diseases, particularly cancer-causing viruses (oncoviruses). He primarily focused on HPV and cervical cancer. Zur Hausen hypothesized that HPV was cancerous and discovered that two strains, HPV 16 and 18, caused cervical cancer.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

George McDonald Church (1954- )

George McDonald Church studied DNA from living and from extinct species in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Church helped to develop and refine techniques with which to describe the complete sequence of all the DNA nucleotides in an organism's genome, techniques such as multiplex sequencing, polony sequencing, and nanopore sequencing. Church also contributed to the Human Genome Project, and in 2005 he helped start a company, the Personal Genome Project. Church proposed to use DNA from extinct species to clone and breed new organisms from those species.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Sidney Q. Cohlan (1915-1999)

Sidney Q. Cohlan studied birth defects in the US during the twentieth century. Cohlan helped to discover that if a pregnant woman ate too much vitamin A her fetus faced a higher than normal risk of teratogenic effects, such as cleft palate. A teratogen is a substance that causes malformation of a developing organism. Cohlan also identified the teratogenic effects of several other substances including a lack of normal magnesium and prenatal exposure to the antibiotic tetracycline.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

De Monstruorum Causis, Natura et Differentiis (On the Reasons, Nature and Differences of Monsters) (1616), by Fortunio Liceti

In 1616 in Padua, Italy, Fortunio Liceti, a professor of natural philosophy and medicine, wrote and published the first edition of De Monstruorum Causis, Natura et Differentiis (On the Reasons, Nature, and Differences of Monsters), hereafter De monstruorum. In De monstruorum, Liceti chronologically documented cases of human and animal monsters from antiquity to the seventeenth century. During the seventeenth century, many people considered such monsters as frightening signs of evil cursed by spiritual or supernatural entities.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)

Virginia Apgar worked as an obstetrical anesthesiologist, administering drugs that reduce women’s pain during childbirth, in the US in the mid-twentieth century. In 1953, Apgar created a scoring system using five easily assessable measurements, including heart rate and breathing rate, to evaluate whether or not infants would benefit from medical attention immediately after birth. Apgar’s system showed that infants who were previously set aside as too sick to survive, despite low Apgar scores, could recover with immediate medical attention.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

The China-US Study on the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects using Folic Acid (1999)

From 1993 to 1995 researchers led by Robert J. Berry from the US Centers for Disease Control headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and Zhu Li from Beijing Medical University in Beijing, China, conducted a collaborative study in China on the prevention of neural tube defects or NTDs using folic acid supplements. NTDs are birth defects in which openings in the spinal cord or the brain that occur during early development remain after birth. Neural-tube formation occurs in early pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant and therefore before she has begun taking prenatal vitamins.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Ethics and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

The recent development of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and related technologies has caught the attention of scientists, activists, politicians, and ethicists alike. IPSCs gained immediate international attention for their apparent similarity to embryonic stem cells after their successful creation in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka and in 2007 by James Thompson and others.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Ethics

Thomson, et al. v. Thompson, et al. (2001)

Thomson, et al. v. Thompson, et al. was a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on 8 May 2001 as Civil Action Number 01-CV-0973. This lawsuit was filed in hopes of gaining injunctive relief against a moratorium on the federal funding of stem cell research. The plaintiffs in the case were seven prominent scientists who performed embryonic stem cell research and three patients: James Thomson, Roger Pedersen, John Gearhart, Douglas Melton, Dan Kaufman, Alan Trounson, Martin Pera, Christopher Reeve, James Cordy, and James Tyree.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

"The Origin and Behavior of Mutable Loci in Maize" (1950), by Barbara McClintock

The Origin and Behavior of Mutable Loci in Maize, by Barbara McClintock, was published in 1950 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. McClintock worked at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Laurel Hollow, New York, at the time of the publication, and describes her discovery of transposable elements in the genome of corn (Zea mays). Transposable elements, sometimes called transposons or jumping genes, are pieces of the chromosome capable of physically changing positions along the chromosome.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

James Alexander Thomson (1958- )

James Alexander Thomson, affectionately known as Jamie Thomson, is an American developmental biologist whose pioneering work in isolating and culturing non-human primate and human embryonic stem cells has made him one of the most prominent scientists in stem cell research. While growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, Thomson's rocket-scientist uncle inspired him to pursue science as a career. Born on 20 December 1958, Thomson entered the nearby University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign nineteen years later as a National Merit Scholar majoring in biophysics.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

John D. Gearhart

John D. Gearhart is a renowned American developmental geneticist best known for leading the Johns Hopkins University research team that first identified and isolated human pluripotent stem cells from human primordial germ cells, the precursors of fully differentiated germ cells. Born in Western Pennsylvania, Gearhart lived on the family farm located in the Allegheny Mountains for the first six years of his life.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Stem Cell Tourism

When James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin announced in 1998 that he had derived and cultured human embryonic stem cells(hESCs), Americans widely believed-and accepted-that stem cells would one day be the basis of a multitude of regenerative medical techniques. Researchers promised that they would soon be able to cure a variety of diseases and injuries such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries, severe burns, and many others. But it wasn't until January 2009 that the Food and Drug Administration approved the first human clinical trials using hESCs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Ethics