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The Effects of Thalidomide on Embryonic Development

Embryogenesis is an intricate process that can easily be disrupted by means of teratogenic agents. Some of these agents target the embryonic period's "window of susceptibility," three to eight weeks after a pregnant woman's last menstruation, when the highest degree of sensitivity to embryonic cell differentiation and organ formation occurs. The embryonic period or critical period is when most organ systems form, whereas the fetal period, week eight to birth, involves the growth and modeling of the organ systems.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Disorders

Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Embryology

The Carnegie Institution of Washington's (CIW) Embryology Department was opened in 1914 and remains one of six departments in the CIW. The department quickly became, and remains, world renowned for its many embryonic development discoveries. In 1913 Franklin P. Mall, Professor of Anatomy at Johns Hopkins Medical School, applied for a Carnegie grant to support his research with human embryos. Mall had a collection of over 800 human embryo specimens and was at the point of wanting to do more than just collect.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Ernest John Christopher Polge (1926-2006)

Twentieth-century researcher Ernest John Christopher Polge studied the reproductive processes of livestock and determined a method to successfully freeze, thaw, and utilize viable sperm cells to produce offspring in animals. In 1949, Polge identified glycerol as a cryoprotectant, or a medium that enables cells to freeze without damaging their cellular components or functions. Several years later, Polge used glycerol in a freezing process called vitrification, which enabled him to freeze poultry sperm, thaw that sperm, and use it to fertilize vertebrate embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the US

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is an artificially created hormone first synthesized in the late 1930s. Doctors widely prescribed DES first to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages, and later as an emergency contraceptive pill and to treat breast cancer. However, in 1971, physicians showed a link between DES and vaginal cancer during puberty in the children of women who had taken DES while pregnant. Consequently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned its use during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Technologies

Gastrulation in Mus musculus (common house mouse)

As mice embryos develop, they undergo a stage of development called gastrulation. The hallmark of vertebrate gastrulation is the reorganization of the inner cell mass (ICM) into the three germ layers: ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. Mammalian embryogenesis occurs within organisms; therefore, gastrulation was originally described in species with easily observable embryos. For example, the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) is the most widely used organism to study gastrulation because the large embryos develop inside a translucent membrane.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Experiments

The Hayflick Limit

The Hayflick Limit is a concept that helps to explain the
mechanisms behind cellular aging. The concept states that a normal human
cell can only replicate and divide forty to sixty times before it
cannot divide anymore, and will break down by programmed cell death
or apoptosis. The concept of the Hayflick Limit revised Alexis
Carrel's earlier theory, which stated that cells can replicate
themselves infinitely. Leonard Hayflick developed the concept while
at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia,

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

John von Neumann's Cellular Automata

Cellular automata (CA) are mathematical models used to simulate complex systems or processes. In several fields, including biology, physics, and chemistry, CA are employed to analyze phenomena such as the growth of plants, DNA evolution, and embryogenesis. In the 1940s John von Neumann formalized the idea of cellular automata in order to create a theoretical model for a self-reproducing machine. Von Neumann's work was motivated by his attempt to understand biological evolution and self-reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Ephraim McDowell (1771-1830)

Ephraim McDowell was an US abdominal surgeon who in 1809 performed one of the first successful ovarian surgeries. McDowell conducted his medical practice in Danville, Kentucky, where he used novel methods of ovariotomy to remove a twenty-two and a half pound ovarian tumor from his patient, Jane Crawford. At the time, surgeons performed ovariotomies by making an incision into each patient’s ovary to remove a mass. However, their patients often died from infection or blood loss.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Isotretinoin (Accutane) as a Teratogen

Isotretinoin is a molecule and a byproduct (metabolite) of vitamin A, and in greater than normal amounts in pregnant women, it can cause fetal abnormalities including cleft lips, ear and eye defects, and mental retardation. Isotretinoin is commonly called by its trade name Accutane, and it's a chemical compound derived from vitamin A, or retinoic acid. Doctors prescribe isotretinoin to treat severe acne. For pregnant women, too much vitamin A or isotretinoin can also cause greater than normal rates of stillbirths and fetal disintegrations after the ninth week of gestation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Hans Spemann (1869-1941)

Hans Spemann was an experimental embryologist best known for his transplantation studies and as the originator of the "organizer" concept. One of his earliest experiments involved constricting the blastomeres of a fertilized salamander egg with a noose of fine baby hair, resulting in a partially double embryo with two heads and one tail.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Dickey-Wicker Amendment, 1996

The Dickey-Wicker Amendment is an amendment attached to the appropriations bills for the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education each year since 1996 restricting the use of federal funds for creating, destroying, or knowingly injuring human embryos. The Dickey-Wicker Amendment began as a rider (another name for an amendment) attached to House Resolution (H.R.) 2880. H.R.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Ian Wilmut (1944- )

British embryologist Sir Ian Wilmut, best known for his work in the field of animal genetic engineering and the successful cloning of sheep, was born 7 July 1944 in Hampton Lucy, England. The family later moved to Scarborough, in the north of the country, to allow his father to accept a teaching position. There Wilmut met Gordon Whalley, head of the biology department at Scarborough High School for Boys, which Wilmut attended.

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

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) is a human disorder in which an individual's genetic sex (genotype) differs from that individual's observable secondary sex characteristics (phenotypes). A fetus with AIS is genetically male with a 46,XY genotype. The term 46,XY refers to the chromosomes found in most cells of the fetus. Most cells have a total of 46 autosomes, or non-sex chromosomes, and a pair sex chromosomes, XX for genetic females, or XY for genetic males.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

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

Jane Maienschein (1950- )

Jane Maienschein is the daughter of Joyce Kylander and Fred Maienschein, and was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on 23 September 1950. She attended MIT as a freshman and then transferred to Yale University in 1969 when Yale decided to admit women undergraduates. In 1972 she graduated with an honors degree in History, the Arts, and Letters having written a thesis on the history of science. She then attended Indiana University and studied with historian of embryology Frederick B.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Gastrulation in Xenopus

The process of gastrulation allows for the formation of the germ layers in metazoan embryos, and is generally achieved through a series of complex and coordinated cellular movements. The process of gastrulation can be either diploblastic or triploblastic. In diploblastic organisms like cnidaria or ctenophora, only the endoderm and the ectoderm form; in triploblastic organisms (most other complex metazoans), triploblastic gastrulation produces all three germ layers.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Hilde Mangold (1898-1924)

Hilde Mangold, previously Hilde Proescholdt, was a German embryologist and physiologist who became well known for research completed with Hans Spemann in the 1920s. As a graduate student, Mangold assisted Spemann and together they discovered and coined the term the "organizer." The organizer discovery was a crucial contribution to embryology that led to further understanding of the pattern of embryo differentiation of amphibians.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Assisted Reproductive Technologies

Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are a collection of different techniques designed to help those who are infertile achieve a successful pregnancy. The most popular technology currently in use is in vitro fertilization (IVF), but others include gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT), intrauterine insemination (IUI), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Amphioxus, and the Mosaic Theory of Development (1893), by Edmund Beecher Wilson

Edmund Beecher Wilson experimented with Amphioxus (Branchiostoma) embryos in 1892 to identify what caused their cells to differentiate into new types of cells during the process of development. Wilson shook apart the cells at early stages of embryonic development, and he observed the development of the isolated cells. He observed that in the normal development of Amphioxus, all three main types of symmetry, or cleavage patterns observed in embryos, could be found. Wilson proposed a hypothesis that reformed the Mosaic Theory associated with Wilhelm Roux in Germany.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Intrauterine Pressure Catheter

An intrauterine pressure catheter (IUPC) is a device placed inside a pregnant woman’s uterus to monitor uterine contractions during labor. During labor, a woman’s uterus contracts to dilate, or open, the cervix and push the fetus into the birth canal. The catheter measures the pressure within the amniotic space during contractions and allows physicians to evaluate the strength, frequency, and duration of contractions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

"The Role of Maternal Mitochondria during Oogenesis, Fertilization and Embryogenesis" (2002), by James M. Cummins

James M Cummins published 'The Role of Maternal Mitochondria during Oogenesis, Fertilization and Embryogenesis' 30 January 2002 in Reproductive BioMedicine Online. In the article, Cummins examines the role of the energy producing cytoplasmic particles, or organelles called mitochondria. Humans inherit mitochondria from their mothers, and mechanisms have evolved to eliminate sperm mitochondria in early embryonic development. Mitochondria contain their own DNA (mtDNA) separate from nuclear DNA (nDNA).

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Stanley Alan Plotkin's Development of a Rubella Vaccine (1969)

In the US during the late 1960s, Stanley Alan Plotkin, John D. Farquhar, Michael Katz, and Fritz Buser isolated a strain of the infectious disease rubella and developed a rubella vaccine with a weakened, or attenuated, version of the virus strain. Rubella, also called German measles, is a highly contagious disease caused by the rubella virus that generally causes mild rashes and fever. However, in pregnant women, rubella infections can lead to developmental defects in their fetuses.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Chloroplasts

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.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Theories, Processes