On the Origin of Mitosing Cells by Lynn Sagan appeared in the March 1967 edition of the Journal of Theoretical Biology. At the time the article was published, Lynn Sagan had divorced astronomer Carl Sagan, but kept his last name. Later, she remarried and changed her name to Lynn Margulis, and will be referred to as such throughout this article. In her 1967 article, Margulis develops a theory for the origin of complex cells that have enclosed nuclei, called eukaryotic cells. She proposes that three organelles: mitochondria, plastids, and basal bodies, which are all parts of eukaryotic cells, were once free-living cells that took residence inside primitive eukaryotic cells. This process Margulis called endosymbiosis. Margulis' theory explained the origin of eukaryote cells, which are the fundamental cell type of most multicellular organisms and form the basis of embryogenesis. After fertilization, embryos develop from a single eukaryotic cell that divides by mitosis.

Lynn Petra Alexander Sagan Margulis was an American biologist, whose work in the mid-twentieth century focused on cells living together in a mutually advantageous relationship, studied cells and mitochondria in the US during the second half of the twentieth century. She developed a theory for the origin of eukaryotic cells, that proposed two kinds of structures found in eukaryotic cells mitochondria in animals, and plastids in plantsÑwere once free-living bacteria that lived harmoniously and in close proximity to larger cells, a scenario called symbiosis. Margulis proposed that the larger cells eventually engulfed the free-living bacteria, resulting in cells living inside other cells, a situation called endosymbiosis. Margulis'theory became called the serial endosymbiosis theory (SET). Her work contributed to explanations of the evolution and development of life, as eukaryotic cells comprise most multicellular organisms, including their embryos.

Aristotle studied developing organisms, among other things, in ancient Greece, and his writings shaped Western philosophy and natural science for greater than two thousand years. He spent much of his life in Greece and studied with Plato at Plato's Academy in Athens, where he later established his own school called the Lyceum. Aristotle wrote greater than 150 treatises on subjects ranging from aesthetics, politics, ethics, and natural philosophy, which include physics and biology. Less than fifty of Aristotle's treatises persisted into the twenty-first century. In natural philosophy, later called natural science, Aristotle established methods for investigation and reasoning and provided a theory on how embryos generate and develop. He originated the theory that an organism develops gradually from undifferentiated material, later called epigenesis.

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.

From 1993 to 1995 researchers led by Robert J. Berry from the US Centers for Disease Control headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and Zhu Li from Beijing Medical University in Beijing, China, conducted a collaborative study in China on the prevention of neural tube defects or NTDs using folic acid supplements. NTDs are birth defects in which openings in the spinal cord or the brain that occur during early development remain after birth. Neural-tube formation occurs in early pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant and therefore before she has begun taking prenatal vitamins. The researchers presented their findings in the article “Prevention of the Neural Tube Defects with Folic Acid in China” published in 1999 in The New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers from The China-US study found that women who took folic acid in the periconceptional period, or the time before conception through the first twenty-eight days after conception, reduced the occurrence of NTDs.

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