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The Marine Biological Laboratory Embryology Course

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, began in 1888 to offer opportunities for instruction and research in biological topics. For the first few years, this meant that individual investigators had a small lab space upstairs in the one wooden building on campus where students heard their lectures and did their research in a common area downstairs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

John George Children (1777–1852)

John George Children described several species of insects and animals while working at the British Museum in London, England, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Children also conducted research on chemical batteries called voltaic cells and briefly studied and manufactured gunpowder. One of the species he described, the Children’s python, or Antaresia children, was used in the twenty-first century as the subject of experiments that involved the biological cost of reproduction in snakes.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"The Adaptive Significance of Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination in a Reptile" (2008), by Daniel Warner and Richard Shine

In 2008 researchers Daniel Warner and Richard Shine tested the Charnov-Bull model by conducting experiments on the Jacky dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus), in Australia. Their results showed that temperature-dependent sex determination(TSD) evolved in this species as an adaptation to fluctuating environmental temperatures. The Charnov-Bull model, proposed by Eric Charnov and James Bull in 1977, described the evolution of TSD, although the model was, for many years, untested.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Eugen Steinach (1861–1944)

Eugen Steinach researched sex hormones and their effects on mammals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe. He experimented on rats by removing their testicles and implanting them elsewhere in their bodies, and he found that the testes interstitial cells produce male sex hormones. He developed the Steinach Rejuvenation Procedure, which he claimed could rejuvenate men by increasing their production of sex hormones. Steinach’s work on female sex hormones and on ovarian extracts led to the development of the first standardized injectable estrogen.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"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

Benjamin Harrison Willier (1890-1972)

Benjamin Harrison Willier is considered one of the most versatile embryologists to have ever practiced in the US. His research spanned most of the twentieth century, a time when the field of embryology evolved from being a purely descriptive pursuit to one of experimental research, to that of incorporating molecular biology into the research lab. Willier was born on 2 November 1890 near Weston, Ohio to Mary Alice Ricard. He spent his childhood doing farming chores and running the farm while his father, David Willier worked as a banker.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Veterans and Agent Orange Update 1996: Summary and Research Highlights" by the US National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine

In March 1996, the National Academy of Sciences of the United States released 'Veterans and Agent Orange Update 1996: Summary and Research Highlights,' which summarized research on the health effects of Agent Orange and other herbicides used in the Vietnam War. In their 1996 report, the National Academy connects Agent Orange exposure with two health conditions: spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spinal cord develops improperly, and peripheral neuropathy, a nervous system condition in which the peripheral nerves are damaged.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Environment and Birth Defects (1973), by James G. Wilson

Environment and Birth Defects by James Graves Wilson in the US was published in 1973. The book summarized information on the causes of malformations in newborns and aimed to acquaint policy makers with Wilson's suggestions for predicting the risks of environmental causes of birth defects, called teratogens. Wilson also provided six principles for researching teratogens, a framework revised from his 1959 article Experimental Studies on Congenital Malformations. The book has ten chapters.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Leo Loeb (1869-1959)

Leo Loeb developed an experimental approach to studying cancer and pioneered techniques for tissue culture and in vitro tissue transplantation which impacted early-to-mid twentieth century experimental embryology. Loeb received his medical degree from the University of Zurich in 1897. As part of his doctorate, he completed a thesis on the outcomes of tissue transplantation in guinea pigs. Loeb's thesis inspired a life-long interest in tissue transplantation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak's Telomere and Telomerase Experiments (1982-1989)

Experiments conducted by Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider, and Jack Szostak from 1982 to 1989 provided theories of how the ends of chromosomes, called telomeres, and the enzyme that repairs telomeres, called telomerase, worked. The experiments took place at the Sidney Farber Cancer Institute and at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and at the University of California in Berkeley, California. For their research on telomeres and telomerase, Blackburn, Greider, and Szostak received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Matthew Stanley Meselson (1930– )

Matthew Stanley Meselson conducted DNA and RNA research in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He also influenced US policy regarding the use of chemical and biological weapons. Meselson and his colleague Franklin Stahl demonstrated that DNA replication is semi-conservative. Semi-conservative replication means that every newly replicated DNA double helix, which consists of two individual DNA strands wound together, contains one strand that was conserved from a parent double helix and that served as a template for the other strand.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Andrew Francis Dixon (1868-1936)

Andrew Francis Dixon studied human anatomy and egg cells at the turn of the twentieth century in Ireland and Great Britain. Dixon studied the sensory and motor nervous system of the face, the cancellous bone tissue of the femur, supernumerary kidneys, and the urogenital system. In 1927 Dixon described a mature human ovarian follicle. This follicle, Dixon noted, contained an immature human egg cell (oocyte) with a visible first polar body and the beginnings of the second polar body.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (1834-1919)

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel was a prominent comparative anatomist and active lecturer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is most well known for his descriptions of phylogenetic trees, studies of radiolarians, and illustrations of vertebrate embryos to support his biogenetic law and Darwin's work with evolution. Haeckel aggressively argued that the development of an embryo repeats or recapitulates the progressive stages of lower life forms and that by studying embryonic development one could thus study the evolutionary history of life on earth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Cardiac Development

A variety of developmental defects occur as a result of prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) in utero. In humans, those defects are collectively classified as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) representing the more severe defects. FAS is defined by pre- and post-natal growth retardation, minor facial abnormalities, and deficiencies in the central nervous system (CNS). In addition to those defects, prenatal exposure to alcohol impacts cardiogenesis, the developmental stage of heart formation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Whitner v. South Carolina (1997)

In the case Whitner v. South Carolina in 1997, the South Carolina State Supreme Court defined the concept of a child to include viable fetuses. This allowed grounds for prosecution of a pregnant womanÕs prenatal activity if those activities endangered or could potentially endanger the fetus within her. The case brought the issue of fetal rights versus pregnant womenÕs rights to light.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Bernard Sachs (1858-1944)

Bernard Sachs studied nervous system disorders in children in the
United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the
late 1880s, Sachs described the fatal genetic neurological disorder
called amaurotic family idiocy, later renamed Tay-Sachs disease. The
disorder degrades motor skills as well as mental abilities in
affected individuals. The expected lifespan of a child with
Tay-Sachs is three to five years. In addition to working on
Tay-Sachs disease, Sachs described other childhood neurological and

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Kurt Benirschke (1924-)

Kurt Benirschke studied cells, placentas, and endangered species in Germany and the US during the twentieth century. Benirschke was professor at the University of California in San Diego, California, and a director of the research department at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California. He also helped form the research department of the San Diego Zoo and its sister organization, the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Post-Coital Oral Emergency Contraception

Post-coital oral emergency contraception is used for the prevention of pregnancy after intercourse. The contraception comes in the form of pills, often collectively referred to as morning-after pills. Post-coital use of morning-after pills separates them from traditional contraception which is either a continual preventative process, such as the birth control pill, or used during intercourse, such as condoms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Roger Wolcott Sperry (1913–1994)

Roger Wolcott Sperry
studied the function of the nervous system in the US during the
twentieth century. He studied split-brain patterns in cats and
humans that result from separating the two hemispheres of the
brain by cutting the corpus callosum, the bridge between the two
hemispheres of the brain. He found that separating the corpus
callosum the two hemispheres of the brain could not communicate
and they performed functions as if the other hemisphere did not

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Johann Friedrich Meckel, the Younger (1781-1833)

Johann Friedrich Meckel studied abnormal animal and human anatomy in nineteenth century Germany in an attempt to explain embryological development. During Meckel's lifetime he catalogued embryonic malformations in multiple treatises. Meckel's focus on malformations led him to develop concepts like primary and secondary malformations, atavism, and recapitulation- all of which influenced the fields of medicine and embryology during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering (MAGE)

Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering, or MAGE, is a genome editing technique that enables scientists to quickly edit an organism’s DNA to produce multiple changes across the genome. In 2009, two genetic researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, Harris Wang and George Church, developed the technology during a time when researchers could only edit one site in an organism’s genome at a time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Processes

Ian Hector Frazer (1953– )

Ian Hector Frazer studied the human immune system and vaccines in Brisbane, Australia, and helped invent and patent the scientific process and technology behind what later became the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccinations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the US, or CDC, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and can lead to genital warts, as well as cervical, head, mouth, and neck cancers.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Effectiveness of Phototherapy in Premature Infants (1968)

In 1968, pediatric researchers Jerold Lucey, Mario Ferreiro, and Jean Hewitt conducted an experimental trial that determined that exposure to light effectively treated jaundice in premature infants. The three researchers published their results in 'Prevention of Hyperbilirubinemia of Prematurity by Phototherapy' that same year in Pediatrics. Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and eyes due to the failure of the liver to break down excess bilirubin in the blood, a condition called hyperbilirubinemia.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Fetus in Fetu

Fetus in fetu is a rare variety of parasitic twins , where the developmentally abnormal parasitic twin is completely encapsulated within the torso of the otherwise normally developed host twin. In the late eighteenth century, German anatomist Johann Friedrich Meckel was the first to described fetus in fetu, which translates to “fetus within fetus.” Fetus in fetu is thought to result from the unequal division of the totipotent inner cell mass , the mass of cells that is the ancestral precursor to all cells in the body.

Subject: Theories, Disorders, Reproduction

Carl Richard Moore (1892-1955)

Carl Richard Moore was a professor and researcher at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois who studied sex hormones in animals from 1916 until his death in 1955. Moore focused on the role of hormones on sex differentiation in offspring, the optimal conditions for sperm production, and the effects of vasectomy or testicular implants on male sex hormone production. Moore's experiments to create hermaphrodites in the laboratory contributed to the theory of a feedback loop between the pituitary and fetal gonadal hormones to control sex differentiation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People