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.

James M Cummins published 'The Role of Maternal Mitochondria during Oogenesis, Fertilization and Embryogenesis' 30 January 2002 in Reproductive BioMedicine Online. In the article, Cummins examines the role of the energy producing cytoplasmic particles, or organelles called mitochondria. Humans inherit mitochondria from their mothers, and mechanisms have evolved to eliminate sperm mitochondria in early embryonic development. Mitochondria contain their own DNA (mtDNA) separate from nuclear DNA (nDNA). Cummins's article describes how mitochondria influence the development of egg cells called oocytes. Mitochondria also function in the union of oocyte and sperm, early formation of the embryo, and in in vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques, such as the transfer of donor cytoplasm into an oocyte resulting in a technique called ooplasmic transfer.

All cells that have a nucleus, including plant, animal, fungal cells, and most single-celled protists, also have mitochondria. Mitochondria are particles called organelles found outside the nucleus in a cell's cytoplasm. The main function of mitochondria is to supply energy to the cell, and therefore to the organism. The theory for how mitochondria evolved, proposed by Lynn Margulis in the twentieth century, is that they were once free-living organisms. Around two billion years ago, mitochondria took up residence inside larger cells, in a process called endosymbiosis, becoming functional parts of those cells. Within each mitochondrion is the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is different from the DNA in the cell's nucleus (nDNA). Organisms inherit their mitochondria only from their mothers via egg cells (oocytes). Mitochondria contribute to the development of oocytes, the release of the oocyte from the ovary (ovulation), the union of oocyte and sperm (fertilization), all stages of embryo formation (embryogenesis), and growth of the embryo after fertilization.

De ovi mammalium et hominis genesi (On the Genesis of the Ovum of Mammals and of Men) is an 1827 pamphlet by Karl Ernst von Baer about the anatomical observation and description of the egg (ovum) of mammals, like dogs and humans. The pamphlet detailed evidence for the existence of the ovum at the beginning of the developmental process in mammals. Prior to von Baer's publication, there was much debate about how organisms develop, as some claimed that organisms grow from a corpuscular element already preformed in the body (preformationism), and others said that organisms developed from a fluid material undergoing a process of progressive formation (epigenesis). Researchers at the time struggled to observe the early stages of development, and those such as von Baer had to observe the phenomenon through microscopes and then provide interpretations of the phenomena they observed.

Edmund Beecher Wilson in the US published An Atlas of Fertilization and Karyokinesis of the Ovum (hereafter called An Atlas) in 1895. The book presents photographs by photographer Edward Leaming that capture stages of fertilization, the fusion of sperm and egg and early development of sea urchin (Toxopneustes variegatus) ova, or egg cell. Prior to An Atlas, no one photographed of eggcell division in clear detail. Wilson obtained high quality images of egg cells by cutting the cells into thin sections and preserving them throughout different stages of development. An Atlas helped Wilson develop methods to present key stages of fertilization and development, which he later used in his textbook The Cell in Development and Inheritance, first published in 1896. Furthermore, An Atlas was the first publication to present accurate images of the fertilized egg cell during early stages of development.

Victor Albrecht von Haller was an 18th century scientist who did extensive work in the life sciences, including anatomy and physiology, botany, and developmental biology. His embryological work consisted of experiments in understanding the process of generation, and led him to adopt the model of preformationism called ovism (the idea that the new individual exists within the maternal egg prior to conception). Haller was born in Bern, Switzerland, on 16 October, 1708. His mother was Anna Maria Engel, and his father was Niklaus Emanuel Haller. The Hallers were an old family in Bern, and Haller spent the majority of his life there. During his life, Haller made many important contributions to medicine, botany, anatomy, and physiology. Haller became one of the most outspoken supporters of preformationism, and the long debate between Haller and Caspar Friedrich Wolff, who supported the competing theory of epigenesis in which form emerges gradually, is a hallmark of this time period in developmental biology. Haller also formulated an accurate model of the rate of fetal growth during gestation, demonstrating statistically that development at the beginning is more rapid than growth later on.

"MicroSort, developed in 1990 by the Genetics and IVF Institute, is a form of pre-conception sex selection technology for humans. Laboratories located around the world use MicroSort technology to help couples increase their chances of conceiving a child of their desired sex. MicroSort separates male sperm cells based on which sex chromosome they contain, which results in separated semen samples that contain a higher percentage of sperm cells that carry the same sex chromosome. The technology ultimately enables couples to choose the sex of their future child by choosing semen samples that predominately contain sperm with the X chromosome for a female or Y chromosome for a male. MicroSort technology is a sperm sorting technique that provides couples worldwide a means of pre-conception sex selection.

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.

Subscribe to Ovum