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"Visualizing Human Embryos" (1999), by Bradley Richard Smith
In March 1999 Bradley Richard Smith, a professor at the University of Michigan, unveiled the first digital magnetic resonance images of human embryos. In his article "Visualizing Human Embryos for Scientific American," Smith displayed three-dimensional images of embryos using combinations of Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM), light microscopy, and various computer editing. He created virtual embryo models that it is possible to view as dissections, animations, or in their whole 3D form. Smith's images constitute a new way of visualizing embryos.
Subject: Outreach, Publications
Arizona State University Embryo Project Photograph Collections
In the 1970s Stanford University Embryologist Harold Heath sent a box of photographs to Frederick B. Churchill, who was a Professor in the History and Philosophy of Science Department at Indiana University. Heath was born in Indiana, he knew that Churchill was the leading historian of embryology, and he wanted his photographs to be used and therefore wanted them to be housed somewhere with an interest in the history of biology. Heath made it clear that he was donating the photographs for use by scholars and the public.
“Effect of Air Quality on Assisted Human Reproduction” (2010), by Richard Legro, Mark V. Sauer, Gilbert L. Mottla, Kevin S. Richter, Xian Li, William C. Dodson, and Duanping Liao
In the early 2000s, Richard S. Legro, Mark V. Sauer, Gilbert L. Mottla, Kevin S. Richter, William C. Dodson, and Duanping Liao studied the relationship between air pollution and reproductive complications. In the United States, Legro’s team tracked thousands of women undergoing in vitro fertilization, or IVF, along with the air quality of both the IVF clinics and patients’ home locations.
Subject: Experiments, Reproduction
Alexis Carrel's Immortal Chick Heart Tissue Cultures (1912-1946)
In an effort to develop tissue culture techniques for long-term tissue cultivation, French surgeon and biologist Alexis Carrel, and his associates, produced and maintained a series of chick heart tissue cultures at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City. From 1912 to 1946, this series of chick heart tissue cultures remained alive and dividing. Since the duration of this culture greatly exceeded the normal chick life span, the cells were deemed immortal.
Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins (1926-2010)
Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins devoted much of his professional life to obstetric research. Liggins demonstrated that hormones created by the fetus helped initiate labor, rather than hormones originating solely from the mother. Liggins also discovered that cortisol given to pregnant mothers helped delay premature labor, and that it increased the likelihood that premature infants would breathe normally after birth. Prior to cortisol treatment, premature infants often died of respiratory distress syndrome characterized by the inability to inflate immature lungs.
Subject: People, Reproduction
A Series of YouTube Videos Detailing the “CRISPR Babies” Experiment (2018), by He Jiankui
In 2018, He Jiankui uploaded a series of videos to a YouTube channel titled “The He Lab” that detailed one of the first instances of a successful human birth after genome editing had been performed on an embryo using CRISPR-cas9. CRISPR-cas9 is a genome editing tool derived from bacteria that can be used to cut out and replace specific sequences of DNA. He genetically modified embryos at his lab in Shenzhen, China, to make them immune to contracting HIV through indirect perinatal transmission from their father, who was infected with the virus.
Subject: Publications, Experiments, Ethics
"The Limited In Vitro Lifetime of Human Diploid Cell Strains" (1964), by Leonard Hayflick
Leonard Hayflick in the US during the early 1960s showed that normal populations of embryonic cells divide a finite number of times. He published his results as 'The Limited In Vitro Lifetime of Human Diploid Cell Strains' in 1964. Hayflick performed the experiment with WI-38 fetal lung cells, named after the Wistar Institute, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Hayflick worked. Frank MacFarlane Burnet, later called the limit in capacity for cellular division the Hayflick Limit in 1974.
Retinoids As Teratogens
Vitamin A (retinol) is an essential vitamin in the daily functioning of human beings that helps regulate cellular differentiation of epithelial tissue. Studies have shown that an excess of vitamin A can affect embryonic development and result in teratogenesis, or the production of birth defects in a developing embryo. Excess intake of vitamin A and retinoids by pregnant women often results malformations to fetuses' skulls, faces, limbs, eyes, central nervous system.
Subject: Disorders, Reproduction
"Hybrids and Chimeras: A report on the findings of the consultation" by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in October, 2007
In 2007, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in London, UK, published Hybrids and Chimeras: A Report on the Findings of the Consultation, which summarized a public debate about research on, and suggested policy for, human animal chimeras. The HFEA formulated the report after conducting a series of surveys and debates from earlier in 2007. The HFEA issued a statement in September 2007, followed by an official report published on 1 October 2007. Their report on human-animal chimeras set a worldwide precedent for discussions of the ethical use of those embryos in labs.
Subject: Publications, Legal, Outreach
Julia Barlow Platt's Embryological Observations on Salamanders' Cartilage (1893)
In 1893, Julia Barlow Platt published her research on the origins of cartilage in the developing head of the common mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) embryo. The mudpuppy is an aquatic salamander commonly used by embryologists because its large embryonic cells and nuclei are easy to see. Platt followed the paths of cells in developing mudpuppy embryos to see how embryonic cells migrated during the formation of the head. With her research, Platt challenged then current theories about germ layers, the types of cells in an early embryo that develop into adult cells.
Subject: Experiments, Theories, Processes
Study of Fossilized Massospondylus Dinosaur Embryos from South Africa (1978-2012)
In 1978, James Kitching discovered two dinosaur embryos in a road-cut talus at Roodraai (Red Bend) in Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa. Kitching assigned the fossilized embryos to the species of long necked herbivores Massospondylus carinatus (longer vertebra) from the Early Jurassic period, between 200 and 183 million years ago. The embryos were partially visible but surrounded by eggshell and rock, called matrix. Kitching said that the eggs were too delicate to remove from the matrix without damage.
Making Visible Embryos (2008- ), by Tatjana Buklijaz and Nick Hopwood
Making Visible Embryos is a 2008 online exhibition of embryos authored and designed by Tatjana Buklijaz and Nick Hopwood who work in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. Hopwood's research on the history of Ziegler wax models and the use of visual aids to promote the teaching and learning of science is well known.
Subject: Organizations, Outreach
In Vitro Fertilization
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an assisted reproductive technology (ART) initially introduced by Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards in the 1970s to treat female infertility caused by damaged or blocked fallopian tubes. This major breakthrough in embryo research has provided large numbers of women the possibility of becoming pregnant, and subsequent advances have dramatically increased their chances. IVF is a laboratory procedure in which sperm and egg are fertilized outside the body; the term "in vitro" is Latin for "in glass."
Subject: Technologies, Reproduction
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.
Possums (1952), by Carl G. Hartman
Possums is a 174-page book consisting of a series of essays written about the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), the only living marsupial in the US. The essays were written by Carl Gottfried Hartman, an embryologist at the Carnegie Institute of Washington (CIW), in Baltimore, Maryland, who also worked with another mammal, the rhesus monkey. Possums was published in 1952 by Hartman's alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Beginning in 1913, while as a graduate student, and later as an instructor at UT, Hartman captured and raised opossums.
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.
Golden Rice was engineered from normal rice by Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer in the 1990s to help improve human health. Golden Rice has an engineered multi-gene biochemical pathway in its genome. This pathway produces beta-carotene, a molecule that becomes vitamin A when metabolized by humans. Ingo Potrykus worked at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, and Peter Beyer worked at University of Freiburg, in Freiburg, Germany. The US Rockefeller Foundation supported their collaboration.
"Cellular death in morphogenesis of the avian wing" (1962), by John W. Saunders Jr., et al.
In the early 1960s, John W. Saunders Jr., Mary T. Gasseling, and Lilyan C. Saunders in the US investigated how cells die in the developing limbs of chick embryos. They studied when and where in developing limbs many cells die, and they studied the functions of cell death in wing development. At a time when only a few developmental biologists studied cell death, or apoptosis, Saunders and his colleagues showed that researchers could use embryological experiments to uncover the causal mechanisms of apotosis.
“Part-Human Chimeras: Worrying the Facts, Probing the Ethics” (2007), by Françoise Baylis and Jason Scott Robert
In 2007, Françoise Baylis and Jason Scott Robert published “Part-Human Chimeras: Worrying the Facts, Probing the Ethics” in The American Journal of Bioethics. Within their article, hereafter “Part-Human Chimeras,” the authors offer corrections on “Thinking About the Human Neuron Mouse,” a report published in The American Journal of Bioethics in 2007 by Henry Greely, Mildred K. Cho, Linda F. Hogle, and Debra M. Satz, which discussed the debate on the ethics of creating part-human chimeras. Chimeras are organisms that contain two or more genetically distinct cell lines.
Cocaine as a Teratogen
Cocaine use by pregnant women has a variety of effects on the embryo and fetus, ranging from various gastro-intestinal and cardiac defects to tissue death from insufficient blood supply. Thus, cocaine has been termed a teratogen, or an agent that causes defects in fetuses during prenatal development. Cocaine is one of the most commonly used drugs in the US and it has a history of both medical and illegal recreational use. It is a drug capable of a wide array of effects on physical and mental health.
Subject: Reproduction, Disorders
Johannes Holtfreter (1901-1992)
Johannes Holtfreter made important discoveries about the properties of the organizer discovered by Hans Spemann. Although he spent much time away from the lab over many years, he was a productive researcher. His colleagues noted that the time he spent away helped revitalize his ideas. He is credited with the development of a balanced salt medium to allow embryos to develop; the discovery that dead organizer tissue retains inductive abilities; and the development of specification, competence, and distribution of fate maps in the developing frog embryo.
Human Embryonic Stem Cells
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that are capable of dividing for long periods of time and can give rise to specialized cells under particular conditions. Embryonic stem cells are a particular type of stem cell derived from embryos. According to US National Institutes of Health (NIH), in humans, the term "embryo" applies to a fertilized egg from the beginning of division up to the end of the eighth week of gestation, when the embryo becomes a fetus. Between fertilization and the eighth week of gestation, the embryo undergoes multiple cell divisions.
Subject: Processes, Reproduction
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.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
The concept Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) refers to a set of birth defects that occur in children born to mothers who abused alcohol during pregnancy. The alcohol-induced defects include pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies, minor facial abnormalities, and damage to the developing central nervous system (CNS).
David Wildt's Evolving Ethics Concerning the Roles of Wildlife Reproductive Sciences in Species Conservation
David Wildt is an animal reproductive biologist who directs the Conservation Biology Institute in Fort Royal, Virginia. In 1986, Wildt argued that artificial reproductive technologies should only be used for species conservation efforts if standard techniques to aid natural reproduction are not effective. Between 1986 and 2001, Wildt revised his views and values primarily in relation to two things: which methods captive breeding programs ought to use, and how reproductive scientists ought to contribute to the larger work of conservation.