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Hermann Joseph Muller (1890-1967)

Hermann Joseph Muller studied the effects of x-ray radiation on genetic material in the US during the twentieth century. At that time, scientists had yet to determine the dangers that x-rays presented. In 1927, Muller demonstrated that x-rays, a form of high-energy radiation, can mutate the structure of genetic material. Muller warned others of the dangers of radiation, advising radiologists to protect themselves and their patients from radiation. He also opposed the indiscriminate use of radiation in medical and industrial fields.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Birth Control Pill

The birth control pill, more commonly known as "the pill" is a form of contraception taken daily in pill form and consisting of synthetic hormones formulated to prevent ovulation, fertilization, and implantation of a fertilized egg. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first birth control pill, Enovid, in June 1960. It was the first contraceptive pill marketed worldwide. Since then a number of different pills have been developed, which differ in hormone type and dosage, and whether they contain one hormone (the minipill) or two (the combination pill).

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

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

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.

Format: Articles

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

Apoptosis in Embryonic Development

Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is a mechanism in embryonic development that occurs naturally in organisms. Apoptosis is a different process from cell necrosis, which is uncontrolled cell death usually after infection or specific trauma. As cells rapidly proliferate during development, some of them undergo apoptosis, which is necessary for many stages in development, including neural development, reduction in egg cells (oocytes) at birth, as well as the shaping of fingers and vestigial organs in humans and other animals. Sydney Brenner, H. Robert Horvitz, and John E.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"The Developmental Capacity of Nuclei Taken from Intestinal Epithelium Cells of Feeding Tadpoles" (1962), by John B. Gurdon

In 1962 researcher John Bertrand Gurdon at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, conducted a series of experiments on the developmental capacity of nuclei taken from intestinal epithelium cells of feeding tadpoles. In the experiments, Gurdon conducted nuclear transplantation, or cloning, of differentiated cells, or cells that have already specialized to become one cell type or another, in tadpoles. Gurdon's experiment showed that differentiated adult cells could be induced to an undifferentiated state, where they could once again become multiple cell types.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Davis v. Davis [Brief] (1992)

This case was the first of its kind to address questions of personhood in the context of in vitro fertilization of a human embryo. It laid a foundation for future cases to work from: specifically, this case established the importance of prior written agreements for disposition of frozen embryos. This was also the first court decision to borrow the word "pre-embryo" from bioethics to describe the in vitro embryo. This terminology has been copied by many states.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

The Marine Biological Laboratory-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Library

In 1888 when students and investigators arrived in Woods Hole for the inaugural session of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), they recognized the need for a library collection of books and journals. The one wooden building on campus, later known as Old Main, housed everything, with researchers upstairs and the student laboratory downstairs. Lectures were held in one corner, and shelves held what books and journals were contributed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777)

Victor Albrecht von Haller was an 18th century scientist who did extensive work in the life sciences, including anatomy and physiology, botany, and developmental biology. His embryological work consisted of experiments in understanding the process of generation, and led him to adopt the model of preformationism called ovism (the idea that the new individual exists within the maternal egg prior to conception). Haller was born in Bern, Switzerland, on 16 October, 1708. His mother was Anna Maria Engel, and his father was Niklaus Emanuel Haller.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Singapore Bioethics Advisory Committee

Established in tandem with Singapore's national Biomedical Sciences Initiatives, the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) was established by the Singapore Cabinet in December 2000 to examine the potential ethical, legal, and social issues arising from Singapore's biomedical research sector, and to recommend policy to Singapore's government.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Ethics, Legal

Preformationism in the Enlightenment

Preformationism was a theory of embryological development used in the late seventeenth through the late eighteenth centuries. This theory held that the generation of offspring occurs as a result of an unfolding and growth of preformed parts. There were two competing models of preformationism: the ovism model, in which the location of these preformed parts prior to gestation was the maternal egg, and the spermism model, in which a preformed individual or homunculus was thought to exist in the head of each sperm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"Human Factor IX Transgenic Sheep Produced by Transfer of Nuclei from Transfected Fetal Fibroblasts" (1997), by Angelika E. Schnieke, et al.

In the 1990s, researchers working at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, performed cloning experiments in collaboration with PPL Therapeutics in Roslin, Scotland, on human coagulation factor IX, a protein. The team of scientists used the methods identified during the Dolly experiments to produce transgenic livestock capable of producing milk containing human blood clotting factor IX, which helps to treat a type of hemophilia.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is located outside the nucleus in the liquid portion of the cell (cytoplasm) inside cellular organelles called Mitochondria. Mitochondria are located in all complex or eukaryotic cells, including plant, animal, fungi, and single celled protists, which contain their own mtDNA genome. In animals with a backbone, or vertebrates, mtDNA is a double stranded, circular molecule that forms a circular genome, which ranges in size from sixteen to eighteen kilo-base pairs, depending on species. Each mitochondrion in a cell can have multiple copies of the mtDNA genome.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Mitochondria

All cells that have a nucleus, including plant, animal, fungal cells, and most single-celled protists, also have mitochondria. Mitochondria are particles called organelles found outside the nucleus in a cell's cytoplasm. The main function of mitochondria is to supply energy to the cell, and therefore to the organism. The theory for how mitochondria evolved, proposed by Lynn Margulis in the twentieth century, is that they were once free-living organisms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms, Theories

"Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution" (1987), by Rebecca Louise Cann, Mark Stoneking, and Allan Charles Wilson

In 1987 Rebecca Louise Cann, Mark Stoneking, and Allan Charles Wilson published Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution in the journal Nature. The authors compared mitochondrial DNA from different human populations worldwide, and from those comparisons they argued that all human populations had a common ancestor in Africa around 200,000 years ago. Mitochondria DNA (mtDNA) is a small circular genome found in the subcellular organelles, called mitochondria.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

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

Sperm Capacitation

The male body, followed by male reproductive organs from which the sperm originates, is depicted from top to bottom at the left. Under the male reproductive organs is a diagram of a single sperm. To the right of the sperm diagram, the physiological and morphological changes a sperm undergoes to fertilize an egg are depicted from left to right. Each change is associated with a light pink rectangle background. Each light pink rectangle corresponds to the location of the sperm within the female reproductive organs, which is depicted above it.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Theories, Processes

Moore v. Regents of the University of California (1990)

On 9 July 1990, in Moore v. Regents of the University of California, the Supreme Court of California ruled in a four-to-three decision that individuals do not have rights to a share in profits earned from research performed on their bodily materials. In its decision, the Supreme Court of California ruled that cancer patient John L. Moore did not have personal property rights to samples or fluids that his physicians took from his body for research purposes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

"Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research: Executive Summary" (1999), by the US National Bioethics Advisory Commission

Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research: Executive Summary was published in September 1999 by The US National Bioethics Advisory Commission in response to a national debate about whether or not the US federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research. Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research recommended policy to US President William Clinton's administration, which advocated for federal spending on the use of stem research on stem cells that came from embryos left over from in vitro fertilization (IVF) fertility treatments.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

The Yale Embryo

In 1934 a fourteen-day-old embryo was discovered during a postmortem examination and became famous for being the youngest known human embryo specimen at the time. The embryo was coined "the Yale Embryo," named after the location where it was discovered, Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. During the early twentieth century, the rush to collect embryos as well as to find younger and younger embryos was at an all time high, and the Yale Embryo is representative of the this enthusiasm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

York v. Jones [Brief] (1989)

The court treated frozen embryos possessed by an in vitro fertilization clinic as property owned by the parents and held under a bailment contract by the clinic. As such, the contract between the parties controlled disposition of the embryos but when the contract ended, control of the embryos reverted back to the parents. This decision had little effect on subsequent embryo cases because the circumstances were so unusual. Neither party contended the embryos had any rights.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

“Transfer of a Human Zygote” (1973), by David De Kretzer, Peter Dennis, Bryan Hudson, John Leeton, Alexander Lopata, Ken Outch, James Talbot, and Carl Wood

On 29 September 1973, researchers David De Kretzer, Peter Dennis, Bryan Hudson, John Leeton, Alexander Lopata, Ken Outch, James Talbot, and Carl Wood published “Transfer of a Human Zygote,” in The Lancet. In the article, the authors describe an experiment that resulted in one of the first pregnancies established via in vitro fertilization, or IVF. Prior to the article’s publication in 1973, there was no published evidence demonstrating whether IVF treatment would work in humans, although evidence existed showing that IVF worked in other mammals for breeding purposes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Processes

Paul Kammerer's Experiments on the Midwife Toad (1905-1910)

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Paul Kammerer, a zoologist working at the Vivarium in Vienna, Austria, conducted research on developmental mechanisms, including a series of breeding experiments on toads (Alytes obstetricans). Kammerer claimed that his results demonstrated that organisms could transmit acquired characteristics to their offspring.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Body Worlds

Body Worlds is an exhibition featuring plastinates, human bodies that have been preserved using a plastination process. First displayed in 1995 in Tokyo, Japan, this collection of anatomical specimens has since been displayed around the world. Although the exhibition debuted in Japan, the idea for the displays began at Heidelberg University in Heidelberg, Germany, where anatomist Gunther von Hagens invented a technique for plastination in the 1970s. After years of research and small-scale presentations of his work, von Hagens created Body Worlds, or Korperwelten in German.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations