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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

John Craig Venter (1946- )

John Craig Venter helped map the genomes of humans, fruitflies, and other organisms in the US in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and he helped develop an organism with a synthetic genome. In February 2001, Venter and his team published a human genome sequence after using a technique known as Expressed Sequence Tags, or ESTs. Venter worked to bridge commercial investment with scientific research. Venter founded a number of private companies, including the for-profit Celera Genomics, headquartered in Alameda, California, as well as research institutes, such as the not-for-profit J.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Cornelia Isabella Bargmann (1961- )

Cornelia Isabella Bargmann studied the relationship between genes, neural circuits, and behavior in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the US. Bargmann’s research focused on how the sense of smell (olfaction) in the nematode word Caenorhabditis elegans. She provided a model to study how neural circuits develop and function in the human brain, as the genetic regulatory pathways are similar.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Roger Sperry’s Split Brain Experiments (1959–1968)

In the 1950s and 1960s, Roger Sperry performed experiments on cats, monkeys, and humans to study functional differences between the two hemispheres of the brain in the United States. To do so he studied the corpus callosum, which is a large bundle of neurons that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Sperry severed the corpus callosum in cats and monkeys to study the function of each side of the brain. He found that if hemispheres were not connected, they functioned independently of one another, which he called a split-brain.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

Telomeres and Telomerase in Cellular Aging (Senescence)

Telomeres are sequences of DNA on the ends of chromosomes that protect chromosomes from sticking to each other or tangling, which could cause irregularities in normal DNA functions. As cells replicate, telomeres shorten at the end of chromosomes, which correlates to senescence or cellular aging. Integral to this process is telomerase, which is an enzyme that repairs telomeres and is present in various cells in the human body, especially during human growth and development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Organisms

Leonard Hayflick (1928- )

Leonard Hayflick studied the processes by which cells age during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the United States. In 1961 at the Wistar Institute in the US, Hayflick researched a phenomenon later called the Hayflick Limit, or the claim that normal human cells can only divide forty to sixty times before they cannot divide any further. Researchers later found that the cause of the Hayflick Limit is the shortening of telomeres, or portions of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that slowly degrade as cells replicate.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Thesis: The Hwang Woo-Suk Scandal and the Development of Bioethics in South Korea

In 2004, the South Korean geneticist Woo-Suk Hwang published what was widely regarded as the most important research finding in biotechnology that year. In the prestigious American journal Science, he claimed that he had succeeded in cloning a human blastocyst, which is an embryo in its early developmental stages (Hwang et al. 2004). A year later, in a second Science article, he made the earth-shattering announcement that he had derived eleven embryonic stem cell lines using his cloning technique (Hwang et al. 2005). The international scientific community was stunned.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Ethics, 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

The Notch Signaling Pathway in Embryogenesis

The Notch signaling pathway is a mechanism in animals by which adjacent cells communicate with each other, conveying spatial information and genetic instructions for the animal's development. All multicellular animals utilize Notch signaling, which contributes to the formation, growth, and development of embryos (embryogenesis). Notch signaling also contributes to the differentiation of embryonic cells into various types of cells into various types of cells, such as neurons.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Dissertation: A Quadruple-Based Text Analysis System for History and Philosophy of Science

Computational tools in the digital humanities often either work on the macro-scale, enabling researchers to analyze huge amounts of data, or on the micro-scale, supporting scholars in the interpretation and analysis of individual documents. The proposed research system that was developed in the context of this dissertation, known as the Quadriga System, works to bridge these two extremes by offering tools to support close reading and interpretation of texts, while at the same time providing a means for collaboration and data collection that could lead to analyses based on big datasets.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Outreach

David Hunter Hubel (1926–2013)

David Hunter Hubel studied the development of the visual system and how the brain processes visual information in the US during the twentieth century. He performed multiple experiments with kittens in which he sewed kitten’s eyes shut for varying periods of time and monitored their vision after reopening them. Hubel, along with colleague Torsten Wiesel, received the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for that research.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Henrietta Lacks (1920–1951)

Henrietta Lacks, born Loretta Pleasant, had terminal cervical cancer in 1951, and was diagnosed at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where researchers collected and stored her cancer cells. Those cells went on to become the first immortal human cell line, which the researchers named HeLa. An immortal cell line is an atypical cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the organism from which they came, often due to a mutation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics

Matthew Howard Kaufman (1942–2013)

Matthew Kaufman was a professor of anatomy at the University of Edinburgh, in Edinburgh, UK, who specialized in mouse anatomy, development, and embryology during the late twentieth century. According to the The Herald, he was the first, alongside his colleague Martin Evans, to isolate and culture embryonic stem cells. Researchers initially called those cells Evans-Kaufman cells. In 1992, Kaufman published The Atlas of Mouse Development, a book that included photographs of mice development and mice organs over time.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Hedgehog Signaling Pathway

The hedgehog signaling pathway is a mechanism that directs the development of embryonic cells in animals, from invertebrates to vertebrates. The hedgehog signaling pathway is a system of genes and gene products, mostly proteins, that convert one kind of signal into another, called transduction. In 1980, Christiane Nusslein-Volhard and Eric F. Wieschaus, at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, identified several fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) genes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

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

Genetics and IVF Institute, GIVF

In 1984, human genetics and reproduction researcher and physician Joseph D. Schulman founded the Genetics and IVF Institute, an international organization that provides infertility treatment and genetic services to patients. IVF stands for in vitro fertilization, an infertility treatment in which a female egg is fertilized by male sperm outside of the female body. GIVF is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, in association with Inova Health System, formerly called the Fairfax Hospital Association, one of the largest regional hospital systems in the United States.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

The Jackson Laboratory

The Roscoe B. Jackson Laboratory, known commonly in the scientific field as the Jackson Laboratory, was founded by Clarence Cook Little in May 1929. The lab has been pivotal in research with in vitro fertilization, teratomas, gene replacement therapy for birth defects, and more because its researchers have focused from the beginning on developing the mouse as a model organism. Mice were chosen by researchers at Jackson as the best available model for genetic research, and today genetically uniform strains of mice developed at the lab are used in laboratories all over the world.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC)

Audrey Heimler and colleagues founded the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) in 1979 in New Hyde Park in New York, New York. Her stated goals were to establish the field of genetic counseling within biomedicine and to coordinate counselors’ voices, so that physicians and others in the medical industry would not dictate the future of the field. Genetic counselors inform patients about the potential for inherited diseases passed on through family lineages and help to navigate the options available.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

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

“An Extended Family with a Dominantly Inherited Speech Disorder” (1990), by Jane A. Hurst et al.

In 1990, researcher Jane Hurst and her colleagues published “An Extended Family With a Dominantly Inherited Speech Disorder,” in which they proposed that a single gene was responsible for a language disorder across three generations of a family. Affected individuals of the family, called the KE family, had difficulty producing, expressing and comprehending speech. Hurst and her team studied the KE family and the disorder at the Department of Clinical Genetics at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Disorders

Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844)

Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, commonly known as Geoffroy, studied animals, their anatomy and their embryos, and teratogens at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Geoffroy also helped develop several specialized fields in the life sciences, including experimental embryology. In his efforts to experimentally demonstrate the theory of recapitulation, Geoffroy developed techniques to intervene in the growth of embryos to see whether they would develop into different kinds of organisms.

Format: Articles

Subject: People