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Process of Eukaryotic Embryonic Development

All sexually reproducing, multicellular diploid eukaryotes begin life as embryos. Understanding the stages of embryonic development is vital to explaining how eukaryotes form and how they are related on the tree of life. This understanding can also help answer questions related to morphology, ethics, medicine, and other pertinent fields of study. In particular, the field of comparative embryology is concerned with documenting the stages of ontogeny.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Robert William Briggs (1911-1983)

Robert William Briggs was a prolific developmental biologist. However, he is most identified with the first successful cloning of a frog by nuclear transplantation. His later studies focused on the problem of how genes influence development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells" (2007), by Junying Yu et al.

On 2 December 2007, Science published a report on creating human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from human somatic cells: "Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells." This report came from a team of Madison, Wisconsin scientists: Junying Yu, Maxim A. Vodyanik, Kim Smuga-Otto, Jessica Antosiewicz-Bourget, Jennifer L. Frane, Shulan Tian, Jeff Nie, Gudrun A. Jonsdottir, Victor Ruotti, Ron Stewart, Igor I. Slukvin, and James A. Thomson.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Spermism

Spermism was one of two models of preformationism, a theory of embryo generation prevalent in the late seventeenth through the end of the eighteenth century. Spermist preformationism was the belief that offspring develop from a tiny fully-formed fetus contained within the head of a sperm cell. This model developed slightly later than the opposing ovist model because sperm cells were not seen under the microscope until about 1677.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

William Harvey (1578-1657)

Renowned physician and scientist William Harvey is best known for his accurate description of how blood circulates through the body. While his published work on the circulation of blood is considered the most important of his academic life, Harvey also made significant contributions to embryology with the publication of his book Exercitationes de Generatione Animalium in 1651. In this book he established several theories that would set the stage for modern embryology and addressed many embryological issues including conception, embryogenesis, and spontaneous generation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945)

Although best known for his work with the fruit fly, for which he earned a Nobel Prize and the title "The Father of Genetics," Thomas Hunt Morgan's contributions to biology reach far beyond genetics. His research explored questions in embryology, regeneration, evolution, and heredity, using a variety of approaches.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (1991- )

In 1991, the
United Kingdom established the Human Fertilisation and Embryology
Authority (HFEA) as a response to technologies that used human embryos.
The HFEA is a regulatory power of the Health and Social Services
Department in London, UK, that oversees the implementation of
reproductive technologies and the use of embryos in research within the
United Kingdom. It establishes protocols by which researchers may use
human embryos, develops legislation on how human embryos are stored and

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Paul Kammerer's Experiments on Salamanders (1903-1912)

In the early twentieth century, Paul Kammerer conducted a series of experiments to demonstrate that organisms could transmit characteristics acquired in their lifetimes to their offspring. In his 1809 publication, zoologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck had hypothesized that living beings can inherit features their parents or ancestors acquired throughout life. By breeding salamanders, as well as frogs and other organisms, Kammerer tested Lamarck's hypothesis in an attempt to provide evidence for Lamarck's theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

What Every Girl Should Know (1916), by Margaret Sanger

What Every Girl Should Know was published in 1916 in New York City, New York, as a compilation of articles written by Margaret Sanger from 1912 to 1913. The original articles appeared in the newspaper New York Call, under the tile “What Every Girl Should Know.” The articles, which are organized into chapters and individual parts in the book, describe sex education, human reproduction, and sexually transmitted infections.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson’s Experiments on the Freezing of Bull Spermatozoa (1950–1952)

In 1952, researchers Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson, who worked at the Animal Research Center in Cambridge, England, detailed several experiments on protocols for freezing bull semen for use in the artificial insemination of cows. Freezing sperm extends the life of a viable sperm sample and allows it to be used at later times, such as in artificial insemination. The researchers examined the effects of freezing conditions on bull sperm and how well they produce fertilized embryos once thawed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

"Viable Offspring Derived from Fetal and Adult Mammalian Cells" (1997), by Ian Wilmut et al.

In the 1990s, Ian Wilmut, Jim McWhir, and Keith Campbell performed experiments while working at the Roslin Institute in Roslin, Scotland. Wilmut, McWhir, and Campbell collaborated with Angelica Schnieke and Alex J. Kind at PPL Therapeutics in Roslin, a company researching cloning and genetic manipulation for livestock. Their experiments resulted in several sheep being born in July 1996, one of which was a sheep named Dolly born 5 July 1996.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

"Hybrids and Chimeras: A Consultation on the Ethical and Social Implications of Creating Human/Animal Embryos in Research" (2007), by the HFEA

To educate its citizens about research into chimeras made from human and non-human animal cells, the United Kingdom's Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority published the consultation piece Hybrids and Chimeras: A Consultation on the Ethical and Social Implications of Creating Human/Animal Embryos in Research, in 2007.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

The Development of Mifepristone for Use in Medication Abortions

In the 1980s, researchers at the pharmaceutical company Roussel-Uclaf in Paris, France, helped develop a biological compound called mifepristone. When a woman takes it, mifepristone interferes with the function of hormones involved in pregnancy and it can therefore be used to terminate pregnancies. In 2000, the US Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, also called RU 486, as part of a treatment to induce abortions using drugs instead of surgery, a method called medication abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction

ABO Blood Type Identification and Forensic Science (1900-1960)

The use of blood in forensic analysis is a method for identifying individuals suspected of committing some kinds of crimes. Paul Uhlenhuth and Karl Landsteiner, two scientists working separately in Germany in the early twentieth century, showed that there are differences in blood between individuals. Uhlenhuth developed a technique to identify the existence of antibodies, and Landsteiner and his students showed that humans had distinctly different blood types called A, B, AB, and O.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Legal, Technologies

Beatrice Mintz (1921- )

Beatrice Mintz is a brilliant researcher who has developed techniques essential for many aspects of research on mouse development. She produced the first successful mouse chimeras and meticulously characterized their traits. She has worked with various cancers and produced viable mice from the cells of a teratoma. Mintz participated in the development of transgenic mice by the incorporation of foreign DNA into a mouse genome.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Frank Rattray Lillie (1870-1947)

Frank R. Lillie was born in Toronto, Canada, on 27 June 1870. His mother was Emily Ann Rattray and his father was George Waddell Little, an accountant and co-owner of a wholesale drug company. While in high school Lillie took up interests in entomology and paleontology but went to the University of Toronto with the aim of studying ministry. He slowly became disillusioned with this career choice and decided to major in the natural sciences. It was during his senior year that he developed his lifelong interest in embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Sheep Cloned by Nuclear Transfer from a Cultured Cell Line" (1996), by Keith Campbell, Jim McWhir, William Ritchie, and Ian Wilmut

In 1995 and 1996, researchers at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, cloned mammals for the first time. Keith Campbell, Jim McWhir, William Ritchie, and Ian Wilmut cloned two sheep, Megan and Morag, using sheep embryo cells. The experiments indicated how to reprogram nuclei from differentiated cells to produce live offspring, and that a single population of differentiated cells could produce multiple offspring. They reported their results in the article 'Sheep Cloned by Nuclear Transfer from a Cultured Cell Line' in March 1996.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990)

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 established the legal framework that governs infertility treatment, medical services ancillary to infertility treatment such as embryo storage, and all human embryological research performed in the UK. The law also defines a legal concept of the parent of a child conceived with assisted reproductive technologies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction, Ethics

Telomerase in Human Development

Telomerase is an enzyme that regulates the lengths of telomeres in the cells of many organisms, and in humans it begins to function int the early stages of embryonic development. Telomeres are repetitive sequences of DNA on the ends of chromosomes that protect chromosomes from sticking to each other or tangling. In 1989, Gregg Morin found that telomerase was present in human cells. In 1996, Woodring Wright and his team examined human embryonic cells and found that telomerase was active in them. Scientists manipulate telomerase in cells to give cells the capacity to replicate infinitely.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Fruits of Philosophy (1832), by Charles Knowlton

In 1832, Charles Knowlton published The Fruits of Philosophy, a pamphlet advocating for controlling reproduction and detailing methods for preventing pregnancy. Originally published anonymously in Massachusetts, The Fruits of Philosophy was an illegal book because United States law prohibited the publishing of immoral and obscene material, which included information about contraception. In The Fruits of Philosophy, Knowlton detailed recipes for contraceptives and advocated for controlling reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Drama of Life Before Birth" (1965), by Life Magazine and Lennart Nilsson

Life Magazine's 1965 cover story "Drama of Life Before Birth" featured photographs of embryos and fetuses taken by Swedish photojournalist Lennart Nilsson to document the developmental stages of a human embryo. Included in this article was the first published image of a living fetus inside its mother's womb. Prior to this, embryos and fetuses were observed, studied, and photographed outside of women's bodies as non-living specimens.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Outreach, Reproduction

Embryonic Differentiation in Animals

Embryonic differentiation is the process of development during which embryonic cells specialize and diverse tissue structures arise. Animals are made up of many different cell types, each with specific functions in the body. However, during early embryonic development, the embryo does not yet possess these varied cells; this is where embryonic differentiation comes into play. The differentiation of cells during embryogenesis is the key to cell, tissue, organ, and organism identity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Christian Heinrich Pander (1794-1865)

Christian Heinrich Pander, often remembered as the father of embryology, also explored the fields of osteology, zoology, geology, and anatomy. He was born in Riga, Latvia, on 24 July 1794. Pander, with an eclectic history of research, is best remembered for his discovery and explanation of the structure of the chick blastoderm, a term he coined. In doing so, Pander was able to achieve the goal set forth by his teacher, Ignaz Döllinger, to reinvigorate the study of the chick embryo as a means of further exploring the science of embryology as a whole.

Format: Articles

Subject: People