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Nerve Growth Factor

Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a signaling protein and growth factor implicated in a wide range of development and maintenance functions. NGF was discovered through a series of experiments in the 1950s on the development of the chick nervous system. Since its discovery, NGF has been found to act in a variety of tissues throughout development and adulthood. It has been implicated in immune function, stress response, nerve maintenance, and in neurodegenerative diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Stanley Cohen (1922- )

Stanley Cohen is a biochemist who participated in the discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF). He shared the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Rita Levi-Montalcini for their work on the discovery of growth factors. His work led to the discovery of many other growth factors and their roles in development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012)

Rita Levi-Montalcini is a Nobel Laureate recognized for her work in the discovery and characterization of nerve growth factor. Nerve growth factor (NGF) promotes the growth and maintenance of the nervous system in a developing system. The majority of her career has been devoted to investigating the many aspects of NGF.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Purification of a Nerve-Growth Promoting Protein from the Mouse Salivary Gland and its Neuro-Cytoxic Antiserum" (1960), by Stanley Cohen

Stanley Cohen published "Purification of a Nerve-Growth Promoting Protein from the Mouse Salivary Gland and its Neuro-Cytoxic Antiserum" in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences in 1960. This paper outlined the successful purification and identification of nerve growth factor (NGF) as a protein, the developmental effects of depriving an embryo of NGF, and the discovery that NGF is also required for the maintenance of the nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"A Diffusible Agent of Mouse Sarcoma, Producing Hyperplasia of Sympathetic Ganglia and Hyperneurotization of Viscera in the Chick Embryo" (1953), by Rita Levi-Montalcini and Viktor Hamburger

"A Diffusible Agent of Mouse Sarcoma, Producing Hyperplasia of Sympathetic Ganglia and Hyperneurotization of Viscera in the Chick Embryo," by Rita Levi-Montalcini and Viktor Hamburger, appeared in 1953 in the Journal of Experimental Zoology. The paper provided the first evidence that nerve growth factor is a diffusible substance. Nerve growth promoting tumors were implanted into developing embryos to determine whether the tumors stimulated growth by direct contact or by a diffusible substance.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Viktor Hamburger (1900-2001)

Viktor Hamburger was an embryologist who focused on neural development. His scientific career stretched from the early 1920s as a student of Hans Spemann to the late 1980s at Washington University resolving the role of nerve growth factor in the life of neurons. Hamburger is noted for his systematic approach to science and a strict attention to detail. Throughout his life he maintained an interest in nature and the arts, believing both were important to his scientific work.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"The Outgrowth of the Nerve Fiber as a Mode of Protoplasmic Movement" (1910), by Ross Granville Harrison

In "The Outgrowth of the Nerve Fiber as a Mode of Protoplasmic Movement," Ross Granville Harrison explores the growth of nerve fibers in vitro. The purpose of this experiment was to test two possible hypotheses for the growth of nerve fibers. Santiago Ramón y Cajal suggested that nerve growth is due to the extension of nerve fibers as they push through tissue. Victor Hensen's syncytial theory proposed an opposing view of nerve growth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Epidermal Growth Factor

Epidermal growth factor is a signaling molecule that stimulates the growth of epidermal tissues during development and throughout life. Stanley Cohen discovered epidermal growth factor (EGF) during studies of nerve growth factor as a side effect of other experiments. EGF stimulates tissue growth by initiating a variety of cellular mechanisms. This work led to the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

"In vitro Experiments on the Effects of Mouse Sarcomas 180 and 37 on the Spinal and Sympathetic Ganglia of the Chick Embryo" (1954), by Rita Levi-Montalcini, Viktor Hamburger, and Hertha Meyer

"In vitro Experiments on the Effects of Mouse Sarcomas 180 and 37 on the Spinal and Sympathetic Ganglia of the Chick Embryo" were experiments conducted by Rita Levi-Montalcini in conjunction with Viktor Hamburger and Hertha Meyer and published in Cancer Research in 1954. In this series of experiments, conducted at the University of Brazil, Levi-Montalcini demonstrated increased nerve growth by introducing specific tumors (sarcomas) to chick ganglia. Ganglia are clusters of nerve cells, from which nerve fibers emerge.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“Sierra Leone’s Former Child Soldiers: A Longitudinal Study of Risk, Protective Factors, and Mental Health” (2010), by Theresa S. Betancourt, Robert T. Brennan, Julia Rubin-Smith, Garrett M. Fitzmaurice, and Stephen E. Gilman

In 2010, Theresa S. Betancourt, Robert T. Brennan, Julia Rubin-Smith, Garrett M. Fitzmaurice, and Stephen E. Gliman, published “Sierra Leone’s Former Child Soldiers: A Longitudinal Study of Risk, Protective Factors, and Mental Health” in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The paper describes the results of a longitudinal study of former Sierra Leone child soldiers that examines how protective and risk factors affect children’s post-conflict mental health outcomes over several years of development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Selective Growth Stimulating Effects of Mouse Sarcoma on the Sensory and Sympathetic Nervous System of the Chick Embryo" (1951), by Rita Levi-Montalcini and Viktor Hamburger

In "Selective Growth Stimulating Effects of Mouse Sarcoma on the Sensory and Sympathetic Nervous System of the Chick Embryo," Rita Levi-Montalcini and Viktor Hamburger explored the effects of two nerve growth stimulating tumors; mouse sarcomas 180 and 37. This experiment led to the discovery that nerve growth factor was a diffusible chemical and later to discoveries that the compound was a protein. Although this paper was an important step in the discovery of nerve growth factor, the term "nerve growth factor" was not used in this paper.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis served as the backdrop for many scientific discoveries, including that of nerve growth factor (NGF). Many of the accomplishments in embryology at Washington University can be attributed to the influence of Viktor Hamburger. He served as chair of the zoology department for twenty-five years. One of the few Nobel Prizes given for embryological research was awarded to faculty members Hamburger hired; Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen won for their role in the discovery of nerve growth factor.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Viktor Hamburger's Study of Central-Peripheral Relations in the Development of Nervous System

An important question throughout the history of embryology is whether the formation of a biological structure is predetermined or shaped by its environment. If both intrinsic and environmental controls occur, how exactly do the two processes coordinate in crafting specific forms and functions? When Viktor Hamburger started his PhD study in embryology in the 1920s, few neuroembryologists were investigating how the central neurons innervate peripheral organs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Effects of Gene Regulation on Aging in Caenorhabditis elegans (2003)

In 2003, molecular biology and genetics researchers Coleen T. Murphy, Steven A. McCarroll, Cornelia I. Bargmann, Andrew Fraser, Ravi S. Kamath, Julie Ahringer, Hao Li, and Cynthia Kenyon conducted an experiment that investigated the cellular aging in, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) nematodes. The researchers investigated the interactions between the transcription factor DAF-16 and the genes that regulate the production of an insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1-like) protein related to the development, reproduction, and aging in C. elegans.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Pre- and Post-natal Growth Deficiencies and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) during pregnancy can inhibit prenatal growth, resulting in fetuses that are small for gestational age. Those prenatal growth deficiencies can have lasting consequences for early childhood development and are often reflected by low weight and stature. Those alcohol-induced pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies ("failure to thrive") are among the abnormal developmental criteria used to identify Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is characterized by minor facial abnormalities and deficiencies of the central nervous system as well.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

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).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

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

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

Beadle and Ephrussi Show that Something Besides Eye Tissue Determines Eye Color in Fruit Flies

In the 1930s, George Beadle and Boris Ephrussi discovered factors that affect eye colors in developing fruit flies. They did so while working at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. (1) They took optic discs (colored fuchsia in the image) from fruit fly larvae in the third instar stage of development. Had the flies not been manipulated, they would have developed into adults with vermilion eyes.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Experiments, Organisms

"Experiments in Transplanting Limbs and Their Bearing Upon the Problems of the Development of Nerves" (1907), by Ross Granville Harrison

In his 1907 paper, "Experiments in Transplanting Limbs and Their Bearing Upon the Problems of the Development of Nerves," in the Journal of Experimental Zoology that he edited, Ross Granville Harrison tested the development of nerves in transplanted tissue. He studied neural development by examining two competing theories. Victor Hensen proposed a syncytial theory as a way to explain neural development, suggesting that all the nerves of an embryo were connected directly by cytoplasm laid down early in development, and leaving no room for later modification.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Human Evolution Inferred from Tooth Growth and Development

To study human evolution, researchers sometimes use microstructures found in human teeth and their knowledge of the processes by which those structures grow. Human fetusus begin to develop teeth in utero. As teeth grow, they form a hard outer substance, called enamel, through a process called amelogenesis. During amelogenesis, incremental layers of enamel form in a Circadian rhythm. This rhythmic deposition leaves the enamel with microstructures, called cross-striations and striae of Retzius, which have a regular periodicity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"Human Factor IX Transgenic Sheep Produced by Transfer of Nuclei from Transfected Fetal Fibroblasts" (1997), by Angelika E. Schnieke, et al.

In the 1990s, researchers working at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, performed cloning experiments in collaboration with PPL Therapeutics in Roslin, Scotland, on human coagulation factor IX, a protein. The team of scientists used the methods identified during the Dolly experiments to produce transgenic livestock capable of producing milk containing human blood clotting factor IX, which helps to treat a type of hemophilia.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Ocular Development

Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) can result in a range of alcohol-induced developmental defects. In humans, those collective birth defects are called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, with the most severe manifestation being Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is defined by pre- and post-natal growth retardation, minor facial abnormalities, and deficiencies in the central nervous system (CNS). The eye and ocular system development is particularly susceptible to the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and can result in visual impairment or blindness.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

"Proliferation, Differentiation and Degeneration in the Spinal Ganglia of the Chick Embryo under Normal and Experimental Conditions" (1949), by Viktor Hamburger and Rita Levi-Montalcini

In this paper Viktor Hamburger and Rita Levi-Montalcini collaborated to examine the effects of limb transplantation and explantation on neural development. In 1947 Hamburger invited Levi-Montalcini to his lab at Washington University in St. Louis to examine this question. Independently, each had previously arrived at opposing conclusions based on the same data.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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