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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.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Theories, Processes

The Y-Chromosome in Animals

The Y-chromosome is one of a pair of chromosomes that determine the genetic sex of individuals in mammals, some insects, and some plants. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the development of new microscopic and molecular techniques, including DNA sequencing, enabled scientists to confirm the hypothesis that chromosomes determine the sex of developing organisms. In an adult organism, the genes on the Y-chromosome help produce the male gamete, the sperm cell. Beginning in the 1980s, many studies of human populations used the Y-chromosome gene sequences to trace paternal lineages.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Theories

Theophilus Shickel Painter (1889-1969)

Theophilus Shickel Painter studied the structure and
function of chromosomes in the US during in the early to mid-twentieth century. Painter worked at
the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas. In the 1920s
and 1930s, Painter studied the chromosomes of the salivary gland
giant chromosomes of the fruit fly (Drosophila
melanogaster), with Hermann J. Muller. Muller and Painter
studied the ability of X-rays to cause changes in the chromosomes
of fruit flies. Painter also studied chromosomes in mammals.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Studies in Spermatogenesis (1905), by Nettie Maria Stevens

Studies in Spermatogenesis is a two volume book written by Nettie Maria Stevens, and published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1905 and 1906. In the books Stevens explains the research she conducted on chromosomal sex determination in the sperm and egg cells of insect species while at Bryn Mawr College, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Studies in Spermatogenesis described early examples of chromosomal XY sex-determination.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Genetic Evidence Equating SRY and the Testis-Determining Factor" (1990), by Phillippe Berta et al.

In the late 1980s, Peter Goodfellow in London, UK led a team of researchers who showed that the SRY gene in humans codes a protein that causes testes to develop in embryos. During this time, scientists in London and Paris, including Peter Koompan and John Gubbay, proposed that SRY was the gene on the Y chromosome responsible for encoding the testis-determining factor (TDF) protein. The TDF is a protein that initiates embryo to develop male characteristics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Shettles Method of Sex Selection

In the 1960s in the United States Landrum B. Shettles developed the Shettles method, which is a procedure for couples to use prior to and during an intercourse to increase their chances of conceiving a fetus of their desired sex. Shettles, a physician, who specialized in obstetrics and gynecology, found a difference in the size and shape of male sperm cells that he correlated with the different sex chromosomes they carry.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Shoukhrat Mitalipov and Masahito Tachibana’s Mitochondrial Gene Replacement in Primate Offspring and Embryonic Stem Cells (2009)

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Masahito Tachibana, and their team of researchers replaced the mitochondrial genes of primate embryonic stem cells via spindle transfer. Spindle replacement, also called spindle transfer, is the process of removing the genetic material found in the nucleus of one egg cell, or oocyte, and placing it in another egg that had its nucleus removed. Mitochondria are organelles found in all cells and contain some of the cell’s genetic material. Mutations in the mitochondrial DNA can lead to neurodegenerative and muscle diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Using Digital PCR to Detect Fetal Chromosomal Aneuploidy in Maternal Blood (2007)

In 2007, Dennis Lo and his colleagues used digital polymerase chain reaction or PCR to detect trisomy 21 in maternal blood, validating the method as a means to detect fetal chromosomal aneuploidies, or an abnormal number of chromosomes in a cell. The team conducted their research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, and at the Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Calvin Bridges’ Experiments on Nondisjunction as Evidence for the Chromosome Theory of Heredity (1913-1916)

From 1913 to 1916, Calvin Bridges performed experiments that indicated genes are found on chromosomes. His experiments were a part of his doctoral thesis advised by Thomas Hunt Morgan in New York, New York. In his experiments, Bridges studied Drosophila, the common fruit fly, and by doing so showed that a process called nondisjunction caused chromosomes, under some circumstances, to fail to separate when forming sperm and egg cells. Nondisjunction, as described by Bridges, caused sperm or egg cells to contain abnormal amounts of chromosomes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

Lap-Chee Tsui (1950-)

Lap-Chee Tsui is a geneticist who discovered the cystic fibrosis (CF) gene, and his research team sequenced human chromosome 7. As the location of the cystic fibrosis gene is now known, it is possible for doctors and specialists to identify in human fetuses the mutation that causes the fatal disease. Tsui's research also outlined the mechanisms for the development of cystic fibrosis, which were previously unknown.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Shoukhrat Mitalipov and Masahito Tachibana's Mitochondrial Gene Replacement Therapy Technique

In 2009, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Masahito Tachibana, and their team of researchers developed the technology of mitochondrial gene replacement therapy to prevent the transmission of a mitochondrial disease from mother to offspring in primates. Mitochondria contain some of the body's genetic material, called mitochondrial DNA. Occasionally, the mitochondrial DNA possesses mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

"Male Development of Chromosomally Female Mice Transgenic for Sry gene" (1991), by Peter Koopman, et al.

Early 1990s research conducted by Peter Koopman, John Gubbay, Nigel Vivian, Peter Goodfellow, and Robin Lovell-Badge, showed that chromosomally female (XX) mice embryos can develop as male with the addition of a genetic fragment from the Y chromosome of male mice. The genetic fragment contained a segment of the mouse Sry gene, which is analogous to the human SRY gene. The researchers sought to identify Sry gene as the gene that produced the testis determining factor protein (Tdf protein in mice or TDF protein in humans), which initiates the formation of testis.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation” (1993), by Dean H. Hamer and Charles A. Thomas.

In 1993, Dean H. Hamer and colleagues in the US published results from their research that indicated that men with speicifc genes were more likely to be homosexual than were men without those genes. The study hypothesized that some X chromosomes contain a gene, Xq28, that increases the likelihood of an individual to be homosexual. Prior to those results, researchers had argued that the cause of homosexuality was environmental and that homosexuality could be altered or reversed. Hamer’s research suggested a possible genetic cause of homosexuality.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Theodor Heinrich Boveri (1862-1915)

Theodor Boveri investigated the mechanisms of heredity. He developed the chromosomal theory of inheritance and the idea of chromosomal individuality. Boveri sought to provide a comprehensive explanation for the hereditary role and behavior of chromosomes. He hoped that his experiments would also help to distinguish the roles of the nucleus and the cytoplasm in embryogenesis. Boveri was particularly interested in how offspring are shaped by the attributes of their parents.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Alec John Jeffreys (1950–)

Alec John Jeffreys created a process called DNA fingerprinting in the UK during the twentieth century. For DNA fingerprinting, technicians identify a person as the source of a biological sample by comparing the genetic information contained in the person's DNA to the DNA contained in the sample. Jeffreys developed the technique in the 1980s while at the University of Leicester in Leicester, UK. Jeffreys's technique had immediate applications. In forensic science, DNA fingerprinting enabled police to identify suspects of crimes based on their genetic identities.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)

Barbara McClintock worked on genetics in corn (maize) plants and spent most of her life conducting research at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Laurel Hollow, New York. McClintock's research focused on reproduction and mutations in maize, and described the phenomenon of genetic crossover in chromosomes. Through her maize mutation experiments, McClintock observed transposons, or mobile elements of genes within the chromosome, which jump around the genome. McClintock received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1983 for her research on chromosome transposition.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Walter Stanborough Sutton (1877-1916)

Walter Stanborough Sutton studied grasshoppers and connected the phenomena of meiosis, segregation, and independent assortment with the chromosomal theory of inheritance in the early twentieth century in the US. Sutton researched chromosomes, then called inheritance mechanisms. He confirmed a theory of Wilhelm Roux, who studied embryos in Breslau, Germany, in the late 1880s, who had argued that chromosomes and heredity were linked. Theodor Boveri, working in Munich, Germany, independently reached similar conclusions about heredity as Sutton.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“Sex Limited Inheritance in Drosophila” (1910), by Thomas Hunt Morgan

In 1910, Thomas Hunt Morgan performed an experiment at Columbia University, in New York City, New York, that helped identify the role chromosomes play in heredity. That year, Morgan was breeding Drosophila, or fruit flies. After observing thousands of fruit fly offspring with red eyes, he obtained one that had white eyes. Morgan began breeding the white-eyed mutant fly and found that in one generation of flies, the trait was only present in males.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

Telomeres and Telomerase in Cellular Aging (Senescence)

Telomeres are sequences of DNA on the ends of chromosomes that protect chromosomes from sticking to each other or tangling, which could cause irregularities in normal DNA functions. As cells replicate, telomeres shorten at the end of chromosomes, which correlates to senescence or cellular aging. Integral to this process is telomerase, which is an enzyme that repairs telomeres and is present in various cells in the human body, especially during human growth and development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Calvin Blackman Bridges (1889-1938)

Calvin Blackman Bridges studied chromosomes and heredity in the US throughout the early twentieth century. Bridges performed research with Thomas Hunt Morgan at Columbia University in New York City, New York, and at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. Bridges and Morgan studied heredity in Drosophila, the common fruit fly. Throughout the early twentieth century, researchers were gathering evidence that genes, or what Gregor Mendel had called the factors that control heredity, are located on chromosomes.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Angelman Syndrome

Angelman syndrome is a disorder in humans that causes neurological symptoms such as lack of speech, jerky movements, and insomnia. A human cell has two copies of twenty-three chromosomes for a total of forty-six-one copy from its mother and one from its father. But in the case of Angelman syndrome, the maternal chromosome numbered 15 has a mutation or deletion in its DNA and a gene on the paternal chromosome 15 is inactivated in some parts the brain. The result is the paternal gene is silenced during development of the sperm, which is called genetic imprinting.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Carol Widney Greider (1961-)

Carol Widney Greider studied telomeres and telomerase in the US at the turn of the twenty-first century. She worked primarily at the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California.
She received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009, along with Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak, for their research on telomeres and telomerase. Telomeres are repetitive sequences of

Subject: People

"The linear arrangement of six sex-linked factors in drosophila, as shown by their mode of association” (1913), by Alfred Henry Sturtevant

In 1913, Alfred Henry Sturtevant published the results of experiments in which he showed how genes are arranged along a chromosome. Sturtevant performed those experiments as an undergraduate at Columbia University, in New York, New York, under the guidance of Nobel laureate Thomas Hunt Morgan. Sturtevant studied heredity using Drosophila, the common fruit fly. In his experiments, Sturtevant determined the relative positions of six genetic factors on a fly’s chromosome by creating a process called gene mapping.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

Alfred Henry Sturtevant (1891–1970)

Alfred Henry Sturtevant studied heredity in fruit flies in the US throughout the twentieth century. From 1910 to 1928, Sturtevant worked in Thomas Hunt Morgan’s research lab in New York City, New York. Sturtevant, Morgan, and other researchers established that chromosomes play a role in the inheritance of traits. In 1913, as an undergraduate, Sturtevant created one of the earliest genetic maps of a fruit fly chromosome, which showed the relative positions of genes along the chromosome.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Curt Jacob Stern (1902-1981)

Curt Jacob Stern studied radiation and chromosomes in humans and fruit flies in the United States during the twentieth century. He researched the mechanisms of inheritance and of mitosis, or the process in which the chromosomes in the nucleus of a single cell, called the parent cell, split into identical sets and yield two cells, called daughter cells. Stern worked on the Drosophila melanogaster fruit fly, and he provided early evidence that chromosomes exchange genetic material during cellular reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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