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The gradient theory is recognized as Charles Manning Child's most significant scientific contribution. Gradients brought together Child's interest in development and his fascination with the origins of individuality and organization. The gradient theory grew from his studies of regeneration, which were largely based on work he conducted with marine invertebrates, such as the ascidian flat worm, planaria and the hydroid, tubularia.
Born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on 2 February 1869, Charles Manning Child was the only surviving child of Mary Elizabeth and Charles Chauncey Child, a prosperous, old New England family. Growing up in Higganum, Connecticut, Child was interested in biology from an early age. He made extensive collections of plants and minerals on his family farm and went on to study biology at Wesleyan University, commuting from his family home. Child received his PhB in 1890 and MS in biology in 1892, and then went on to study in Leipzig after his parents death.
"β-Catenin Defines Head Versus Tail Identity During Planarian Regeneration and Homeostasis" (2007), by Kyle A. Gurley, Jochen C. Rink, and Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado
Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado's laboratory group has employed molecular tools to investigate old questions about regeneration and as a result have identified some of the molecular mechanisms determining polarity. Recent work by his group has shown Wnt-β-catenin signaling determines whether a tail or a head will form during regeneration in planarians. This study was motivated by work Thomas Hunt Morgan conducted in the late nineteenth century.
The source-sink model, first proposed by biologist Francis Crick in 1970, is a theoretical system for how morphogens distribute themselves across small fields of early embryonic cells. A morphogen is a substance that determines the fate and phenotype of a group of cells through a concentration gradient of itself across that group. Crick’s theory has been experimentally confirmed with several morphogens, most notably with the protein bicoid , the first discovered morphogen. The model provides a theoretical structure for the understanding of some features of early embryonic development.