In 1907, researchers Bernhardt Kronig and Carl Gauss combined the drugs morphine and scopolamine to induce twilight sleep in women during childbirth. Physicians in the early twentieth century in Germany used twilight sleep, Dammerschlaf, to cause women to enter a state of consciousness in which they felt no pain and did not remember giving birth. Twilight sleep was associated with increased use of forceps during delivery, prolonged labor, and increased risk of infant suffocation. Because of those disadvantages, physicians stopped using morphine and scopolamine to prevent pain during childbirth. Morphine and scopolamine were among the first anesthetics to be used during childbirth, and after physicians stopped using them, researchers searched for safer alternatives.

Ectoderm is one of three germ layers--groups of cells that coalesce early during the embryonic life of all animals except maybe sponges, and from which organs and tissues form. As an embryo develops, a single fertilized cell progresses through multiple rounds of cell division. Eventually, the clump of cells goes through a stage called gastrulation, during which the embryo reorganizes itself into the three germ layers: endoderm, ectoderm, and mesoderm. After gastrulation, the embryo goes through a process called neurulation, which starts the development of nervous system.

Implantation is a process in which a developing embryo, moving as a blastocyst through a uterus, makes contact with the uterine wall and remains attached to it until birth. The lining of the uterus (endometrium) prepares for the developing blastocyst to attach to it via many internal changes. Without these changes implantation will not occur, and the embryo sloughs off during menstruation. Such implantation is unique to mammals, but not all mammals exhibit it. Furthermore, of those mammals that exhibit implantation, the process differs in many respects between those mammals in which the females have estrous cycles, and those mammals in which the femals have menstrual cycles. Females in the different species of primates, including humans, have menstrual cycles, and thus similar processes of implantation.

Leonardo da Vinci's embryological drawings of the fetus in the womb and his accompanying observational annotations are found in the third volume of his private notebooks. The drawings of Leonardo's embryological studies were conducted between the years 1510-1512 and were drawn with black and red chalk with some pen and ink wash on paper. These groundbreaking illustrations of the fetus reveal his advanced understanding of human development and demonstrate his role in the vanguard of embryology during the Renaissance. His famous embryological drawings of the fetus have since been collected and held in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle in England.

Sperm capacitation refers to the physiological changes spermatozoa must undergo in order to have the ability to penetrate and fertilize an egg. This term was first coined in 1952 by Colin Russell Austin based on independent studies conducted by both Austin himself as well as Min Chueh Chang in 1951. Since the initial reports and emergence of the term, the details of the process have been more clearly elucidated due to technological advancements. The recognition of the phenomenon was quite important to early in vitro fertilization experiments as well as the continued understanding of embryology and reproductive biology.

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. Research into the Notch gene in fruit flies began in the early twentieth century, but not until the end of the twentieth century did researchers begin to uncover, in many different species, the roles of Notch proteins for cell to cell signaling. Researchers have also found that dysfunction in the pathway can contribute to diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's.

The Sex-determining Region Y (Sry in mammals but SRY in humans) is a gene found on Y chromosomes that leads to the development of male phenotypes, such as testes. The Sry gene, located on the short branch of the Y chromosome, initiates male embryonic development in the XY sex determination system. The Sry gene follows the central dogma of molecular biology; the DNA encoding the gene is transcribed into messenger RNA, which then produces a single Sry protein. The Sry protein is also called the testis-determining factor (TDF), a protein that initiates male development in humans, placental mammals, and marsupials. The Sry protein is a transcription factor that can bind to regions of testis-specific DNA, bending specific DNA and activating or enhancing its abilities to promote testis formation, marking the first step towards male, rather than female, development in the embryo.

Among other functions, the Notch signaling pathway forestalls the process of myogenesis in animals. The Notch signaling pathway is a pathway in animals by which two adjacent cells within an organism use a protein named Notch to mechanically interact with each other. Myogenesis is the formation of muscle that occurs throughout an animal's development, from embryo to the end of life. The cellular precursors of skeletal muscle originate in somites that form along the dorsal side of the organism. The Notch signaling pathway is active in multiple aspects of somitogenesis, and it continues to be a critical regulator during myogenesis. Throughout the life of an organism, Notch signaling prevents the differentiation of muscle progenitor cells into muscle cells. Such preventions help maintain populations of progenitor cells that can remain dormant until the growth or repair of muscle is necessary, at which point the Notch signal to the muscle progenitor cells is disrupted, and the muscle progenitor cells differentiate into muscle fibers and cells. Without Notch signaling, myogenesis proceeds prematurely and dissipates before mature muscle can form.

Among other functions, the Notch signaling pathway contributes to the development of somites in animals. It involves a cell signaling mechanism with a wide range of functions, including cellular differentiation, and the formation of the embryonic structures (embryogenesis). All multicellular animals use Notch signaling, which is involved in the development, maintenance, and regeneration of a range of tissues. The Notch signaling pathways spans two cells, and consists of receptor proteins, which cross one cell's membrane and interacts with proteins on adjacent cells, called ligands. The physical interaction of receptors and ligands directs the genetic response of the first cell to produce proteins that define the type of cell it will become. One of the earliest discovered roles of the Notch signaling pathway in vertebrates is in somite formation (somitogenesis). Somitogenesis is the formation of somites, which are sphere-like structures in early vertebrate embryos that are the first visible signs of segmentation. Somites then help to define many tissues and features of the adult animal's body. The Notch signaling pathway plays at least two distinct roles during somitogenesis: the first is maintenance of an oscillating protein gradient, called the segmental clock, and the second is establishing the polarity of somites. Mutations to genes in the Notch pathway can result in birth defects characterized by abnormal development of bones of the spine and ribs, like spondylocostal dysostosis. Additionally, dysfunction in the pathway linked to cancer progression, HIV-related complications, and Alzheimer´s disease, among other disorders.

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. They found that when those genes were changed or mutated, the mutated genes disrupted the normal development of fruit fly larvae. The researchers called one of the genes hedgehog (abbreviated hh). Nusslein-Volhard, Wieschaus, and Edward B. Lewis, at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their research on how genes control early embryonic development in fruit flies. The hedgehog signaling pathway is conserved across many animal taxa or phyla, from Drosophila to humans. The hedgehog signaling pathway controls several key components of embryonic development, stem-cell maintenance, and it influences the development of some cancers.

Subscribe to Processes