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San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research

The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research (SDZICR) in San Diego, California, is a research organization that works to generate, use, and share information for the conservation of wildlife and their habitats. In 1975, Kurt Benirschke, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) who studied human and animal reproduction, and Charles Bieler, the director of the San Diego Zoo, collaborated to form the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES).

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

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

Seed Collection and Plant Genetic Diversity, 1900-1979

Farmers have long relied on genetic diversity to breed new crops, but in the early 1900s scientists began to study the importance of plant genetic diversity for agriculture. Scientists realized that seed crops could be systematically bred with their wild relatives to incorporate specific genetic traits or to produce hybrids for more productive crop yields.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

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

James Alexander Thomson (1958- )

James Alexander Thomson, affectionately known as Jamie Thomson, is an American developmental biologist whose pioneering work in isolating and culturing non-human primate and human embryonic stem cells has made him one of the most prominent scientists in stem cell research. While growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, Thomson's rocket-scientist uncle inspired him to pursue science as a career. Born on 20 December 1958, Thomson entered the nearby University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign nineteen years later as a National Merit Scholar majoring in biophysics.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Beatrice Mintz (1922–2022)

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

US Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program

In 1996, the US Congress mandated that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) create and regulate the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. The program tests industrial and agricultural chemicals for hormonal impacts in humans and in wildlife that may disrupt organisms' endocrine systems. The endocrine system regulates the release of small amounts of chemical substances called hormones to keep the body functioning normally.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Legal, Ethics

Hanging Drop Tissue Culture

The hanging drop tissue culture is a technique utilized in embryology and other fields to allow growth that would otherwise be restricted by the flat plane of culture dishes and also to minimize the surface area to volume ratio, slowing evaporation. The classic hanging drop culture is a small drop of liquid, such as plasma or some other media allowing tissue growth, suspended from an inverted watch glass. The hanging drop is then suspended by gravity and surface tension, rather than spreading across a plate.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

“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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms, Ethics

“Survival of Mouse Embryos Frozen to -196 ° and -269 °C” (1972), by David Whittingham, Stanley Leibo, and Peter Mazur

In 1972, David Whittingham, Stanley Leibo, and Peter Mazur published the paper, “Survival of Mouse Embryos Frozen to -196 ° and -269 °C,” hereafter, “Survival of Mouse Embryos,” in the journal Science. The study marked one of the first times that researchers had successfully cryopreserved, or preserved and stored by freezing, a mammalian embryo and later transferred that embryo to a live mouse who gave birth to viable offspring. Previously, scientists had only been successful cryopreserving single cells, like red blood cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Experiments, Ethics

Oliver Allison Ryder III (1946– )

Oliver Allison Ryder studied chromosomal evolution and endangered species in efforts for wildlife conservation and preservation at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California. Throughout his career, Ryder studied breeding patterns of endangered species. He collected and preserved cells, tissues, and DNA from endangered and extinct species to store in the San Diego Frozen Zoo, a center for genetic research and development in San Diego, California.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Digit Regeneration Is Regulated by Msx1 and BMP4 in Fetal Mice (2003), by Manjong Han et al.

In the early 2000s, Manjong Han, Xiaodang Yang, Jennifer Farrington, and Ken Muneoka investigated how genes and proteins in fetal mice (Mus musculus) influenced those fetal mice to regenerate severed toes at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. The group used hind limbs from mice to show how the gene Msx1 (Homeobox 7) functions in regenerating amputated digits.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"Experiments on Embryonic Induction III. A Note on Inductions by Chick Primitive Streak Transplanted to the Rabbit Embryo" (1934), by Conrad Hal Waddington

Conrad Hal Waddington's "Experiments on Embryonic Induction III," published in 1934 in the Journal of Experimental Biology, describes the discovery that the primitive streak induces the mammalian embryo. Waddington's hypothesis was that a transplanted primitive streak could induce neural tissue in the ectoderm of the rabbit embryo. The primitive streak defines the axis of an embryo and is capable of inducing the differentiation of various tissues in a developing embryo during gastrulation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Maurice Ralph Hilleman (1919–2005)

Maurice Ralph Hilleman developed vaccines at the Merck Institute of Therapeutic Research in West Point, Pennsylvania, during the twentieth century. Over the course of his career at Merck, Hilleman created over forty vaccines, making him one of the most prolific developers of vaccine in the twentieth century. Of the fourteen vaccines commonly given to children in the US by 2015, Hilleman was responsible for eight of them. Hilleman's most widely used vaccine was his measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Boris Ephrussi (1901-1979)

Boris Ephrussi studied fruit flies, yeast, and mouse genetics and development while working in France and the US during the twentieth century. In yeast, Ephrussi studied how mutations in the cytoplasm persisted across generations. In mice he studied the genetics of hybrids and the development of cancer. Working with George Wells Beadle on the causes of different eye colors in fruit flies, Ephrussi's research helped establish the one-gene-one-enzyme hypothesis. Ephrussi helped create new embryological techniques and contributed the theories of genetics and development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"The Inductive Capacity of Oral Mesenchyme and Its Role in Tooth Development" (1969-1970), by Edward J. Kollar and Grace R. Baird

Between February 1969 and August 1970 Edward Kollar and Grace Baird, from the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, published three papers that established the role of the mesenchyme in tooth induction. Drawing upon a history of using tissue interactions to understand differentiation, Kollar and Baird designed their experiments to understand how differentiated structures become specified. Their work overturned a widely accepted model that epithelium controls the identity of the structure, a phenomenon called structural specificity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Ovism

Ovism was one of two models of preformationism, a theory of generation prevalent in the late seventeenth through the end of the eighteenth century. Contrary to the competing theory of epigenesis (gradual emergence of form), preformationism held that the unborn offspring existed fully formed in the eggs or sperm of its parents prior to conception. The ovist model held that the maternal egg was the location of this preformed embryo, while the other preformationism model known as spermism preferred the paternal germ cell, as the name implies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Shoukhrat Mitalipov and Masahito Tachibana’s Mitochondrial Gene Replacement in Primate Offspring and Embryonic Stem Cells (2009)

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Masahito Tachibana, and their team of researchers replaced the mitochondrial genes of primate embryonic stem cells via spindle transfer. Spindle replacement, also called spindle transfer, is the process of removing the genetic material found in the nucleus of one egg cell, or oocyte, and placing it in another egg that had its nucleus removed. Mitochondria are organelles found in all cells and contain some of the cell’s genetic material. Mutations in the mitochondrial DNA can lead to neurodegenerative and muscle diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Alexis Carrel's Tissue Culture Techniques

Alexis Carrel, the prominent French surgeon, biologist, and 1912 Nobel Prize laureate for Physiology or Medicine, was one of the pioneers in developing and modifying tissue culture techniques. The publicized work of Carrel and his associates at the Rockefeller Institute established the practice of long-term tissue culture for a wide variety of cells. At the same time, some aspects of their work complicated the operational procedures of tissue culture.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Developmental Timeline of Alcohol-Induced Birth Defects

Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) during pregnancy can result in a continuum of embryonic developmental abnormalities that vary depending on the severity, duration, and frequency of exposure of ethanol during gestation. Alcohol is a teratogen, an environmental agent that impacts the normal development of an embryo or fetus. In addition to dose-related concerns, factors such as maternal genetics and metabolism and the timing of alcohol exposure during prenatal development also impact alcohol-related birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Jacques Loeb (1859-1924)

Jacques Loeb experimented on embryos in Europe and the United States at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. Among the first to study embryos through experimentation, Loeb helped found the new field of experimental embryology. Notably, Loeb showed scientists how to create artificial parthenogenesis, thus refuting the idea that spermatozoa alone were necessary to develop eggs into embryos and confirming the idea that the chemical constitution of embryos environment affected their development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Life's Greatest Miracle (2001), by Julia Cort and NOVA

The Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) documentary Life's Greatest Miracle (abbreviated Miracle, available at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/miracle/program.html), is arguably one of the most vivid illustrations of the making of new human life. Presented as part of the PBS television series NOVA, Miracle is a little less than an hour long and was first aired 20 November 2001. The program was written and produced by Julia Cort and features images by renowned Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction