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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

"Selective Growth Stimulating Effects of Mouse Sarcoma on the Sensory and Sympathetic Nervous System of the Chick Embryo" (1951), by Rita Levi-Montalcini and Viktor Hamburger

In "Selective Growth Stimulating Effects of Mouse Sarcoma on the Sensory and Sympathetic Nervous System of the Chick Embryo," Rita Levi-Montalcini and Viktor Hamburger explored the effects of two nerve growth stimulating tumors; mouse sarcomas 180 and 37. This experiment led to the discovery that nerve growth factor was a diffusible chemical and later to discoveries that the compound was a protein. Although this paper was an important step in the discovery of nerve growth factor, the term "nerve growth factor" was not used in this paper.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

Arthur Earl Walker (1907-1995)

Arthur Earl Walker was a medical researcher and physician who studied the brain and neurosurgery in the United States during the twentieth century. Walker examined the connections of the thalamus to the rest of the brain and how the thalamus coordinates sensory signals. The thalamus is a cluster of nerve cells located between the two hemispheres of the brain and it is responsible for consciousness and sensory interpretation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Processes

"Experiments in Transplanting Limbs and Their Bearing Upon the Problems of the Development of Nerves" (1907), by Ross Granville Harrison

In his 1907 paper, "Experiments in Transplanting Limbs and Their Bearing Upon the Problems of the Development of Nerves," in the Journal of Experimental Zoology that he edited, Ross Granville Harrison tested the development of nerves in transplanted tissue. He studied neural development by examining two competing theories. Victor Hensen proposed a syncytial theory as a way to explain neural development, suggesting that all the nerves of an embryo were connected directly by cytoplasm laid down early in development, and leaving no room for later modification.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

Facial Abnormalities of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical, neurological, behavioral, and learning defects collectively grouped under the heading Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was first defined in 1973 as a condition characterized by pre- and postnatal growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, and defects of the central nervous system. The pattern of facial defects that occur as a result of ethanol exposure during development primarily affects the midline of the face, altering morphology of the eyes, nose, and lips.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)

Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) can occur in children whose mothers contracted the rubella virus, sometimes called German measles, during pregnancy. Depending on the gestational period when the mother contracts rubella, an infant born with CRS may be unaffected by the virus or it may have severe developmental defects. The most severe effects of the virus on fetal development occur when the mother contracts rubella between conception and the first trimester.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Neural Tube Defects (NTD): Folic Acid and Pregnancy

In the US, one in 1000 births is affected by neural tube defects (NTD). A neural tube defect is a birth defect involving the malformation of body features associated with the brain and spinal cord. An NTD originates from and is characterized by incomplete closure of the neural tube, which is an organizer and precursor of the central nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Pre- and Post-natal Growth Deficiencies and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) during pregnancy can inhibit prenatal growth, resulting in fetuses that are small for gestational age. Those prenatal growth deficiencies can have lasting consequences for early childhood development and are often reflected by low weight and stature. Those alcohol-induced pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies ("failure to thrive") are among the abnormal developmental criteria used to identify Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is characterized by minor facial abnormalities and deficiencies of the central nervous system as well.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Cerebellum Development

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical, neurological, behavioral, and learning defects collectively grouped under the heading fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe combination of these defects under this heading, and is characterized by pre- and postnatal growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, and defects of the central nervous system (CNS).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Ectoderm

Ectoderm is one of three germ layers--groups of cells that coalesce early during the embryonic life of all animals except maybe sponges, and from which organs and tissues form. As an embryo develops, a single fertilized cell progresses through multiple rounds of cell division. Eventually, the clump of cells goes through a stage called gastrulation, during which the embryo reorganizes itself into the three germ layers: endoderm, ectoderm, and mesoderm. After gastrulation, the embryo goes through a process called neurulation, which starts the development of nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Nerve Growth Factor

Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a signaling protein and growth factor implicated in a wide range of development and maintenance functions. NGF was discovered through a series of experiments in the 1950s on the development of the chick nervous system. Since its discovery, NGF has been found to act in a variety of tissues throughout development and adulthood. It has been implicated in immune function, stress response, nerve maintenance, and in neurodegenerative diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Bernard Sachs (1858-1944)

Bernard Sachs studied nervous system disorders in children in the
United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the
late 1880s, Sachs described the fatal genetic neurological disorder
called amaurotic family idiocy, later renamed Tay-Sachs disease. The
disorder degrades motor skills as well as mental abilities in
affected individuals. The expected lifespan of a child with
Tay-Sachs is three to five years. In addition to working on
Tay-Sachs disease, Sachs described other childhood neurological and

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Francis Harry Compton Crick (1916-2004)

Francis Harry Compton Crick, who co-discovered the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in 1953 in Cambridge, England, also developed The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology, and further clarified the relationship between nucleotides and protein synthesis. Crick received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine that he shared with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins in 1962 for their discovery of the molecular structure of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Purification of a Nerve-Growth Promoting Protein from the Mouse Salivary Gland and its Neuro-Cytoxic Antiserum" (1960), by Stanley Cohen

Stanley Cohen published "Purification of a Nerve-Growth Promoting Protein from the Mouse Salivary Gland and its Neuro-Cytoxic Antiserum" in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences in 1960. This paper outlined the successful purification and identification of nerve growth factor (NGF) as a protein, the developmental effects of depriving an embryo of NGF, and the discovery that NGF is also required for the maintenance of the nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Santiago Felipe Ramon y Cajal (1852-1934)

Santiago Felipe Ramon y Cajal investigated brains in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Spain. He identified and individuated many components of the brain, including the neuron and the axon. He used chick embryos instead of adult animals, then customary in brain research, to study the development and physiology of the cerebellum, spinal cord, and retina. Ramon y Cajal received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1906, along with Camillo Golgi, for his work on the structure of the nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Torsten Wiesel (1924– )

Torsten Nils Wiesel studied visual information processing and development in the US during the twentieth century. He performed multiple experiments on cats in which he sewed one of their eyes shut and monitored the response of the cat’s visual system after opening the sutured eye. For his work on visual processing, Wiesel received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1981 along with David Hubel and Roger Sperry.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Andrew Francis Dixon (1868-1936)

Andrew Francis Dixon studied human anatomy and egg cells at the turn of the twentieth century in Ireland and Great Britain. Dixon studied the sensory and motor nervous system of the face, the cancellous bone tissue of the femur, supernumerary kidneys, and the urogenital system. In 1927 Dixon described a mature human ovarian follicle. This follicle, Dixon noted, contained an immature human egg cell (oocyte) with a visible first polar body and the beginnings of the second polar body.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

The Milky Way (2014)

On 26 April 2014, Gravitas Ventures released the documentary The Milky Way, a film directed by Jon Fitzgerald that compares breastfeeding in the US with breastfeeding in European countries. The film was produced by Piece of My Heart Productions and Cause Pictures. In the film, producers Jennifer Davidson and Chantal Molnar travel to Berlin, Germany, and Stockholm, Sweden, to observe how people perceive breastfeeding there, compared to in the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

David Baltimore (1938– )

David Baltimore studied viruses and the immune system in the US during the twentieth century. In 1975, Baltimore was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering reverse transcriptase, the enzyme used to transfer information from RNA to DNA. The discovery of reverse transcriptase contradicted the central dogma of biology at the time, which stated that the transfer of information was unidirectional from DNA, RNA, to protein.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Sex-determining Region Y in Mammals

The Sex-determining Region Y (Sry in mammals but SRY in humans) is a gene found on Y chromosomes that leads to the development of male phenotypes, such as testes. The Sry gene, located on the short branch of the Y chromosome, initiates male embryonic development in the XY sex determination system. The Sry gene follows the central dogma of molecular biology; the DNA encoding the gene is transcribed into messenger RNA, which then produces a single Sry protein.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes