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Barbara McClintock's Transposon Experiments in Maize (1931–1951)

Barbara McClintock conducted experiments on corn (Zea mays) in the United States in the mid-twentieth century to study the structure and function of the chromosomes in the cells. McClintock researched how genes combined in corn and proposed mechanisms for how those interactions are regulated. McClintock received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983, the first woman to win the prize without sharing it. McClintock won the award for her introduction of the concept of transposons, also called jumping genes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Experiments on the Reproductive Costs of a Pure Capital Breeder, the Children’s Python (Antaresia childreni) (2013), by Olivier Lourdais, Sophie Lorioux, and Dale F. DeNardo

In 2013, Olivier Lourdais, Sophie Lorioux, and Dale DeNardo conducted a study on the impact of the reproductive effort on the muscle size and the constriction strength of female Children’s pythons. Children’s pythons are pure capital breeders, meaning that they do not eat during vitellogenesis, a process in which egg-laying or oviparous species allocate bodily resources including fat, water, and protein to follicles in the ovary that develop into eggs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Pierre Budin (1846-1907)

Pierre Constant Budin worked in France to improve the lives of newborns and their mothers during the late nineteenth century. Budin stressed the importance of proper nutrition in infants and educated new mothers on breastfeeding and infant care. Budin established infant care facilities and created a nutritional check-up system for infants. Budin helped design early artificial nipples, breast pumps, and incubators for premature newborns. He also began the practice of consulting with new mothers after they gave birth, redefining the roles of obstetricians.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

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."

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

John Charles Rock (1890-1984)

Born on 24 March 1890 in Marlborough, Massachusetts, to Ann and Frank Rock, John Charles Rock was both a devout Catholic and one of the leading investigators involved in the development of the first oral contraceptive pill. In 1925 he married Anna Thorndike, with whom he later had five children. He spent over thirty years of his career as a clinical professor of obstetrics at Harvard Medical School, and in 1964 the Center for Population Studies of the Harvard School of Public Health established the John Rock Professorship.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

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

Muriel Wheldale Onslow (1880-1932)

Muriel Wheldale Onslow studied flowers in England with genetic and biochemical techniques in the early twentieth century. Working with geneticist William Bateson, Onslow used Mendelian principles and biochemical analysis together to understand the inheritance of flower colors at the beginning of the twentieth century. Onslow's study of snapdragons, or Antirrhinum majus, resulted in her description of epistasis, a phenomenon in which the phenotypic effect of one gene is influenced by one or more other genes. She discovered several biochemicals related to color formation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"How do Embryos Assess Risk? Vibrational Cues in Predator-Induced Hatching of Red-Eyed Treefrogs" (2005), by Karen Warkentin

In 'How do Embryos Assess Risk? Vibrational Cues in Predator-Induced Hatching of Red-Eyed Treefrogs' (2005), Karen Warkentin reported on experiments she conducted to see how red-eyed treefrog embryos, Agalychnis callidryas, can distinguish between vibrations due to predator attacks and other environmental occurrences, such as storms. Though the ability of red-eyed treefrogs to alter their hatch timing had been documented, the specific cues that induce early hatching were not well understood.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Organisms

"Programmed Cell Death-II. Endocrine Potentiation of the Breakdown of the Intersegmental Muscles of Silkmoths" (1964), by Richard A. Lockshin and Carroll M. Williams

Richard A. Lockshin's 1963 PhD dissertation on cell death in insect metamorphosis was conducted under the supervision of Harvard insect physiologist Carroll M. Williams. Lockshin and Williams used this doctoral research as the basis for five articles, with the main title "Programmed Cell Death," that were published between 1964 and 1965 in the Journal of Insect Physiology. These articles examine the cytological processes, neuronal and endocrinal controls, and the influence of drugs on the mechanism of cell death observed in pupal muscle structures of the American silkmoth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

Teratomas

Teratomas are embryonal tumors that normally arise from germ cells and are typically benign. They are defined as being composed either of tissues that are foreign to the area in which they form, or of tissues that derive from all three of the germ layers. Malignant teratomas are known as teratocarcinomas; these cancerous growths have played a pivotal role in the discovery of stem cells. "Teratoma" is Greek for "monstrous tumor"; these tumors were so named because they sometimes contain hair, teeth, bone, neurons, and even eyes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Disorders

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

Leon Richard Kass (1939- )

A PhD and medical doctor turned ethicist, Leon Kass calls himself an unlicensed humanist. Throughout his unique career he has sought to impact others and engage important cultural issues. This he has accomplished over the course of many years by studying biochemistry, teaching humanities, writing articles and books on ethics, and serving as chair of the President's Council on Bioethics.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

"Behavioral Thermoregulation by Turtle Embryos" (2011), by Wei-Guo Du, Bo Zhao, Ye Chen, and Richard Shine

In "Behavioral Thermoregulation by Turtle Embryos," published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April, 2011, Wei-Guo Du, Bo Zhao, Ye Chen, and Richard Shine report that turtle embryos can move towards warmer temperatures within the egg when presented with a small, 0.8 degrees Celsius gradient. This behavioral thermoregulation may benefit the embryo's fitness by accelerating the rate of development enough to decrease the incubation period by up to four and a half days. Embryos are generally thought to have little control over their surroundings.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Leonardo da Vinci's Embryological Annotations

Among his myriad scientific and artistic contributions, Leonardo da Vinci's work in embryology was groundbreaking. He observed and diagramed the previously undemonstrated position of the fetus in the womb with detailed accompanying annotations of his observations. Leonardo was highly paranoid of plagiarism and wrote all of his notes in mirror-like handwriting laden with his own codes, making his writing difficult to discern and delaying its impact.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Nicolaas Hartsoeker (1656-1725)

Nicolaas Hartsoeker, a Dutch astronomer, optics manufacturer, and naturalist, was born 26 March 1656 in Gouda, Netherlands, and died 10 December 1725. His mother was Anna van der Mey and his father was Christiaan Hartsoeker, a prominent evangelical minister. His major contribution to embryology was his observations of human sperm cells, which he claimed to be the first to see under a microscope. His sketch of the homunculus, a tiny preformed human he believed to exist in the head of spermatazoa, is his lasting scientific legacy in the field of embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

Max Ludwig Henning Delbruck (1906–1981)

Max Ludwig Henning Delbrick applied his knowledge of theoretical physics to biological systems such as bacterial viruses called bacteriophages, or phages, and gene replication during the twentieth century in Germany and the US. Delbrück demonstrated that bacteria undergo random genetic mutations to resist phage infections. Those findings linked bacterial genetics to the genetics of higher organisms. In the mid-twentieth century, Delbrück helped start the Phage Group and Phage Course in the US, which further organized phage research.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"'Doing the Month': Confinement and Convalescence of Chinese Women After Childbirth" (1978), by Barbara L.K. Pillsbury

In 1978 Social Science and Medicine published Barbara L.K. Pillsbury's article, 'Doing the Month': Confinement and Convalescence of Chinese Women After Childbirth, which summarized the results of Pillsbury's study on Chinese childbirth customs. Pillsbury, a professor of cultural anthropology at San Diego State University in San Diego, California, conducted over eighty interviews with people in Taiwan and China, including civilians, herbalists, and physicians over a four-month period in 1975.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

The Debate over DNA Replication Before the Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1953–1957)

Between 1953 and 1957, before the Meselson-Stahl experiment verified semi-conservative replication of DNA, scientists debated how DNA replicated. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick proposed that DNA was composed of two helical strands that wound together in a coil. Their model suggested a replication mechanism, later termed semi-conservative replication, in which parental DNA strands separated and served as templates for the replication of new daughter strands.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the US

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is an artificially created hormone first synthesized in the late 1930s. Doctors widely prescribed DES first to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages, and later as an emergency contraceptive pill and to treat breast cancer. However, in 1971, physicians showed a link between DES and vaginal cancer during puberty in the children of women who had taken DES while pregnant. Consequently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned its use during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Technologies

Categorization of Conservative, Semi-Conservative, and Dispersive DNA Replication Theories (1953–1956)

In 1956, Gunther Stent, a scientist at the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, California, coined the terms conservative, semi-conservative, and dispersive to categorize the prevailing theories about how DNA replicated. Stent presented a paper with Max Delbrück titled “On the Mechanism of DNA Replication” at the McCollum-Pratt Symposium at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In response to James Watson and Francis Crick’s proposed structure of DNA in 1953, scientists debated how DNA replicated.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Baby Makers (2012)

In 2012, the production company Waddell Media Production released the documentary The Baby Makers. The four-part series, directed and produced by Edel O’Mahony, follows multiple couples in Northern Ireland struggling with infertility problems as they utilize different treatments such as in vitro fertilization, or IVF, egg donation, and egg freezing. IVF is a procedure in which a woman’s egg is fertilized by a sperm outside of her body. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, a fertility doctor places the fertilized egg back into the woman’s uterus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

The Hedgehog Signaling Pathway in Vertebrates 

The hedgehog signaling pathway is a mechanism that regulates cell growth and differentiation during embryonic development, called embryogenesis, in animals. The hedgehog signaling pathway works both between cells and within individual cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Sonja Vernes, et al.'s Experiments On the Gene Networks Affected by the Foxp2 Protein (2011)

In 2011, Sonja Vernes and Simon Fisher performed a series of experiments to determine which developmental processes are controlled by the mouse protein Foxp2. Previous research showed that altering the Foxp2 protein changed how neurons grew, so Vernes and Fisher hypothesized that Foxp2 would affect gene networks that involved in the development of neurons, or nerve cells. Their results confirmed that Foxp2 affected the development of gene networks involved in the growth of neurons, as well as networks that are involved in cell specialization and cell communication.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments