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Dissertation: Degeneration in Miniature: History of Cell Death and Aging Research in the Twentieth Century
Once perceived as an unimportant occurrence in living organisms, cell degeneration was reconfigured as an important biological phenomenon in development, aging, health, and diseases in the twentieth century. This dissertation tells a twentieth-century history of scientific investigations on cell degeneration, including cell death and aging.
Format: Essays and Theses
Fruit Fly Life Cycle
Fruit flies of the species Drosophila melanogaster develop from eggs to adults in eight to ten days at 25 degrees Celsius. They develop through four primary stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. When in the wild, female flies lay their fertilized eggs in rotting fruit or other decomposing material that can serve as food for the larvae. In the lab, fruit flies lay their fertilized eggs in a mixture of agar, molasses, cornmeal, and yeast. After roughly a day, each egg hatches into a larva.
Hartsoeker's Homunculus Sketch from Essai de Dioptrique
This embryology image is a pencil sketch by Nicolaas Hartsoeker, published as part of his 1694 French-language paper entitled Essai de Dioptrique, a semi-speculative work describing the sorts of new scientific observations that could be done using magnifying lenses. Dioptrique was published in Paris by the publishing house of Jean Anisson. The image depicts a curled up infant-like human, now referred to as a homunculus, inside the head of a sperm cell.
Slime Mold Video
This video is composed of a sequence of films created by John Tyler Bonner in the 1940s to show the life cycle of the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum. As only the second person to study slime molds, Bonner frequently encountered audiences who had never heard of, let alone seen, the unusual organism.
The Development of Silicone Breast Implants for Use in Breast Augmentation Surgeries in the United States
In the 1960s, two plastic surgeons from the United States, Thomas Dillon Cronin and Frank Judson Gerow, collaborated with the Dow Corning Corporation, which specialized in silicone products, to create the first silicone breast implant. Surgeons used the implant, named the Cronin-Gerow implant, to improve the look of a woman’s breasts, by correcting for asymmetry, augmenting the size, or creating a more uplifted profile.
Subject: Technologies, Processes
Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering (MAGE)
Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering, or MAGE, is a genome editing technique that enables scientists to quickly edit an organism’s DNA to produce multiple changes across the genome. In 2009, two genetic researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, Harris Wang and George Church, developed the technology during a time when researchers could only edit one site in an organism’s genome at a time.
Subject: Technologies, Processes
Luc Antoine Montagnier (1932-2022)
Luc Montagnier studied viruses, the immune system, and cancer in France during the second half of the twentieth century. In his early career, Montagnier studied how cancer-causing viruses replicate and infect host cells. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008 for his team’s discovery that a retrovirus, human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, was the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. AIDS is a chronic condition that results from HIV infection and damages the immune system.
Subject: People, Processes, Experiments
The Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1957–1958), by Matthew Meselson and Franklin Stahl
In an experiment later named for them, Matthew Stanley Meselson and Franklin William Stahl in the US demonstrated during the 1950s the semi-conservative replication of DNA, such that each daughter DNA molecule contains one new daughter subunit and one subunit conserved from the parental DNA molecule. The researchers conducted the experiment at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, from October 1957 to January 1958.
Subject: Processes, Experiments
Julia Barlow Platt's Embryological Observations on Salamanders' Cartilage (1893)
In 1893, Julia Barlow Platt published her research on the origins of cartilage in the developing head of the common mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) embryo. The mudpuppy is an aquatic salamander commonly used by embryologists because its large embryonic cells and nuclei are easy to see. Platt followed the paths of cells in developing mudpuppy embryos to see how embryonic cells migrated during the formation of the head. With her research, Platt challenged then current theories about germ layers, the types of cells in an early embryo that develop into adult cells.
Subject: Experiments, Theories, Processes
Intraspecies Chimeras Produced in Laboratory Settings (1960-1975)
When cells-but not DNA-from two or more genetically distinct individuals combine to form a new individual, the result is called a chimera. Though chimeras occasionally occur in nature, scientists have produced chimeras in a laboratory setting since the 1960s. During the creation of a chimera, the DNA molecules do not exchange genetic material (recombine), unlike in sexual reproduction or in hybrid organisms, which result from genetic material exchanged between two different species. A chimera instead contains discrete cell populations with two unique sets of parental genes.
Hamburger-Hamilton Staging Series (1951)
In 1951 Viktor Hamburger and Howard Hamilton created an embryonic staging series from a combination of photographs and drawings from other researchers. The Hamburger-Hamilton stages are a sequence of images depicting 46 chronological stages in chick development. The images begin with a fertilized egg and end with a fully developed chick. The Hamburger-Hamilton staging series was produced in order to replace a previous chick staging series created in 1900. The earlier attempt lacked specific details and staged the chick embryo by using only morphological characteristics.
Golgi Staining Technique
The Golgi staining technique, also called the black reaction after the stain's color, was developed in the 1870s and 1880s in Italy to make brain cells (neurons) visible under the microscope. Camillo Golgi developed the technique while working with nervous tissue, which required Golgi to examine cell structure under the microscope. Golgi improved upon existing methods of staining, enabling scientists to view entire neurons for the first time and changing the way people discussed the development and composition of the brain's cells.
Subject: Technologies, Processes
"The Role of Urethra in Female Orgasm" (1950), by Ernst Gräfenberg
In 1950, physician and researcher Ernst Gräfenberg published “The Role of Urethra in Female Orgasm,” in the International Journal of Sexology. The article was one of the first to mention the area in the anterior, or front, vaginal wall colloquially called the G-spot. In the article, Gräfenberg acknowledges that many females experience problems related to sexual satisfaction, and he argues that researchers and physicians of the time did not know enough information about the anatomical mechanisms and localization of the female orgasm to help them.
Subject: Publications, Reproduction, Processes
A Fate Map of the Chick Embryo
A 3-D fate map of the chicken (Gallus gallus) embryo with the prospective point of ingression and yolk. The area where the primitive streak will form during gastrulation is shown. The anterior- posterior axis is shown by labeling the anterior and posterio ends (A) and (P). Different colors indicate prospective fates of different regions of the epiblast after gastrulation.
The Blastoderm in Chicks During Early Gastrulation
This image shows a chicken (Gallus gallus) embryo undergoing gastrulation in stage four (18-19 hrs after laying) according to the Hamburger-Hamilton staging series. At this point in time the chicken embryo is a blastoderm (shown in blue). The first magnification of the embryo shows that the blastoderm cell layers have thickened to form the primitive streak and Hensen's node. The primitive streak extends from the posterior (P) region to the anterior (A) region. The second rectangular magnification shows the blastoderm cross-sectioned through the primitive streak.
The figure depicts three different molecular structures of estrogen found in mammals’ that differ by the arrangement of bonds and side groups. The molecular structures of the three estrogen molecules differ by the arrangement of chemical bonds and side groups attached to the core steroid structure, cholesterol, which contains three cyclohexane rings and one cyclopentane ring.
Subject: Theories, Processes, Reproduction
Mitochondria are organelles found in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells. They are composed of an outer membrane and an inner membrane. The outer membrane faces the cellular cytoplasm, while the inner membrane folds back on itself multiple times, forming inner folds, called cristae. The space between the two membrane layers is called the intermembrane space, and the space within the inner membrane is called the matrix.
Jelly Fish and Green Fluorescent Protein
The crystal jellyfish, Aequorea victoria, produces and emits light, called bioluminescence. Its DNA codes for sequence of 238 amino acids that forms a protein called Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). FP is folded so that a part of the protein, called the chromophore, is located in the center of the protein. The chemical structure of the chromophore emits a green fluorescence when exposed to light in the range of blue to ultraviolet.
Subject: Theories, Processes, Organisms, Technologies
DNA and X and Y Chromosomes
Y-chromosomes exist in the body cells of many kinds of male animals. Found in the nucleus of most living animal cells, the X and Y-chromosomes are condensed structures made of DNA wrapped around proteins called histones. The individual histones bunch into groups that the coiled DNA wraps around called a nucleosome, which are roughly 10 nano-meters (nm) across. The histones bunch together to form a helical fiber (30 nm) that spins into a supercoil (200 nm). During much of a cell's life, DNA exists in the 200 nm supercoil phase.
Chloroplasts are the organelles in plant and algal cells that conduct photosynthesis. A single chloroplast has an outer membrane and an inner membrane, with an intermembrane space in between. Within the inner membrane, interconnected stacks of thylakoids, called granum, float in a protein rich fluid called the stroma. These thylakoid stacks contain chlorophyll, a pigment which converts sunlight into usable energy for plants and free oxygen from water. The stacks are sites of light reactions within a plant cell.
Neurospora crassa Life Cycle
This diagram shows the life cycle of Neurospora crassa, a mold that grows on bread. N. crassa can reproduce through an asexual cycle or a sexual cycle. The asexual cycle (colored as a purple circle), begins in this figure with (1a) vegetative mycelium, which are strands of mature fungus. Some of the strands form bulbs (2a) in a process called conidiation. From those bulbs develop the conidia, which are spores. Next, (3a) a single conidium separates from its strand and elongates until it forms mycelium.
Beadle's One Gene-One Enzyme Hypothesis
Between 1934 and 1945, George Beadle developed a hypothesis that each gene within the chromosomes of organisms each produced one enzyme. Enzymes are types of proteins that can catalyze reactions inside cells, and the figure shows that each enzyme controls a stage in a series of biochemical reactions. The top box in this figure represents a normal process of enzyme production and biochemical reactions, and the bottom box shows how Beadle's experiments affected the normal biochemical process.
The Process of Gastrulation in Frog Embryos
Illustration of the movement of the three hemispheres of cells, the animal cap (dark green) the marginal zone (lime green) and the ventral cap (yellow) during frog gastrulation. The external view column (images a.1-a.6) shows gastrulation as it occurs on the outside of the embryo. The cross-section view column (images b.1-b.6) shows the internal view of gastrulation. The cross-sections are through the middle of the embryo.
Frog Embryo in the Blastula Stage
Illustration of the animal-vegetal gradient in Xenopus laevis ( African clawed frog) eggs after fertilization. During fertilization, the sperm s point of entry determines the future dorsal side (shaded) and ventral side (unshaded) of the embryo. The prospective ventral side of the embryo forms on the side where the sperm enters while the prospective dorsal side forms opposite the sperm s point of entry.
Mechanism of Notch Signaling
Mechanism of Notch Signaling: The image depicts a type of cell signaling, in which two animal cells interact and transmit a molecular signal from one to the other. The process results in the production of proteins, which influence the cells as they differentiate, move, and contribute to embryological development. In the membrane of the signaling cell, there is a ligand (represented by a green oval). The ligand functions to activate a change in a receptor molecule. In the receiving cell, there are receptors; in this case, Notch proteins (represented by orange forks).