Oswald Theodore Avery studied strains of pneumococcus of the genus Streptococcus in the US in the first half of the twentieth century. This bacterium causes pneumonia, a common cause of death at the turn of the twentieth century. In a 1944 paper, Avery demonstrated with colleagues Colin Munro MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty that deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, instead of protein, formed the material of heritable transformation in bacteria. Avery helped untangle some of the relationships between genes and developmental processes.

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In the late 1980s, Peter Goodfellow in London, UK led a team of researchers who showed that the SRY gene in humans codes a protein that causes testes to develop in embryos. During this time, scientists in London and Paris, including Peter Koompan and John Gubbay, proposed that SRY was the gene on the Y chromosome responsible for encoding the testis-determining factor (TDF) protein. The TDF is a protein that initiates embryo to develop male characteristics. Looking for evidence that SRY was the TDF, Goodfellow and colleagues examined people who were anatomically female, but whose cells had Y chromosomes. Females normally have cells with two X sex chromosomes (XX), while males normally have cells with one X and one Y chromosome (XY). Goodfellow's team discovered that individuals with Y chromosomes developed as female instead of as male due to inactive SRY sequences on the Y chromosome. Goodfellow and colleagues compiled the results of their experiment in a paper titled Genetic Evidence Equating SRY and the Testis-Determining Factor in 1990. Their results showed that the SRY gene is necessary for male characteristics to develop in embryos, and that SRY encodes the TDF protein.

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. Santiago Ramón y Cajal proposed a competing outgrowth theory that nerves develop from the central nervous system, pushing through tissues by growing nerve fibers and growth cones. Harrison's experiment refuted many of the claims of the syncytial theory although it did not produce evidence that could directly prove the outgrowth theory.

In 1952 Robert Briggs and Thomas J. King published their article, "Transplantation of Living Nuclei from Blastula Cells into Enucleated Frogs' Eggs," in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the culmination of a series of experiments conducted at the Institute for Cancer Research and Lankenau Hospital Research Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In this paper Briggs and King examined whether nuclei of embryonic cells are differentiated, and by doing so, were the first to conduct a successful nuclear transplantation with amphibian embryos. Previously nuclear transplantation had only been performed using amoebae cells. Briggs and King believed that by removing the egg nucleus and replacing it with a differentiated cell, they could study nuclear differentiation. During the experiment, they used two different species of frogs, Rana pipiens and Rana catesbeiana, to study and test whether the nucleus is differentiated. The nuclear transplantations performed in the experiment would later be referred to as cloning.

In a clinical trial from 1969 to 1972, Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins and Ross Howie showed that if doctors treat pregnant women with corticosteroids before those women deliver prematurely, then those women's infants have fewer cases of respiratory distress syndrome than do similarly premature infants of women not treated with corticosteroids. Prior to the study, premature infants born before 32 weeks of gestation often died of respiratory distress syndrome, or the inability to inflate immature lungs. Liggins and Howie, then both at the University of Auckland in Auckland, New Zealand, published their results in A Controlled Trial of Antepartum Glucorticoid Treatment for Prevention of the Respiratory Distress Syndrome in Premature Infants in 1972. The study built on experiments Liggins had earlier conducted with sheep. Liggins' corticosteroid experiments changed the way doctors treated pregnant women experiencing preterm labors, and they improved the life expectancy of prematurely born infants.

During the mid-nineteenth century, Johann Gregor Mendel experimented with pea plants to develop a theory of inheritance. In 1843, while a monk in the Augustian St Thomas's Abbey in Brünn, Austria, now Brno, Czech Repubic, Mendel examined the physical appearance of the abbey's pea plants (Pisum sativum) and noted inconsistencies between what he saw and what the blending theory of inheritance, a primary model of inheritance at the time, predicted. With his experiments, which he recored in "Versuche uber Pflanzenhybriden" ("Experiments in Plant Hybridization") in 1865, Mendel discredited the blending theory of inheritance, and from them he proposed laws for inheritance patterns. Despite the fact that Mendel's work did not define all aspects of inheritance, his ideas and laws contributed to later concepts of traits, specifically that offspring inherit traits from their parents via genes, that an offspring has at least two genetic factors for any given qualitative trait, and that the offspring inherits the genetic factors in equal proportion from both parents.

Paul M. Brakefield and his research team in Leiden, the Netherlands, examined the development, plasticity, and evolution of butterfly eyespot patterns, and published their findings in Nature in 1996. Eyespots are eye-shaped color patterns that appear on the wings of some butterflies and birds as well as on the skin of some fish and reptiles. In butterflies, such as the peacock butterfly Aglais, the eyespots resemble the eyes of birds and help butterflies deter potential predators. Brakefield's research team described the stages through which eyespots develop, identified the genes and environmental signals that affect eye-spot appearance in some species, and demonstrated that small genetic variations can change butterfly eyespot color and shape. The research focused on a few butterfly species, but it contributed to more general claims of how the environment may affect the development of coloration and how specific color patterns may have evolved.

In 2010, a team of US researchers concluded that the more peanuts a pregnant woman ate during her pregnancy, the more likely her newborn was to be sensitive to peanuts. They published their results in 2010's "Maternal consumption of peanut during pregnancy is associated with peanut sensitization in atopic infants." The work resulted from the collaboration of Scott Sicherer and Hugh Sampson, both from the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York, New York along with other colleagues. The experiment identified prenatal and postnatal factors associated with peanut sensitization, which was identified and measured by the blood plasma levels of a specific class of antibody, immunoglobulin (IgE), in infants. The researchers concluded that there was a direct correlation between maternal intake of peanut during pregnancy and a high level of peanut sensitization in the infant after birth.

'On the Permanent Life of Tissues outside of the Organism' reports Alexis Carrel's 1912 experiments on the maintenance of tissue in culture media. At the time, Carrel was a French surgeon and biologist working at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City. In his paper, Carrel reported that he had successfully maintained tissue cultures, which derived from connective tissues of developing chicks and other tissue sources, by serially culturing them. Among all the tissue cultures Carrel reported, one was maintained for more than two months, whereas previous efforts had only been able to keep tissues in vitro for three to fifteen days. Carrel’s experiments contributed to the development of long-term tissue culture techniques, which were useful in the study of embryology and eventually became instrumental in stem cell research. Despite later evidence to the contrary, Carrel believed that as long as the tissue culture method was accurately applied, tissues kept outside of the organisms should be able to divide indefinitely and have permanent life.

Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), a stem cell biotechnology company in Worcester, Massachusetts, showed the potential for cloning to contribute to conservation efforts. In 2000 ACT researchers in the United States cloned a gaur (Bos gaurus), an Asian ox with a then declining wild population. The researchers used cryopreserved gaur skin cells combined with an embryo of a domestic cow (Bos taurus). A domestic cow also served as the surrogate for the developing gaur clone. The successful procedure opened the opportunity to clone individuals from species for which there are few or zero live specimens. The official release of this experiment's data was published in the paper 'Cloning of an Endangered Species (Bos gaurus) Using Interspecies Nuclear Transfer,' in October 2000. In the article, the researchers presented data collected from several cloned fetuses that were aborted before the full term of 283 days. At the time of publication, the gaur bull fetus, named Noah at birth, had developed for greater than 180 days. Noah was born on 8 January 2001, but died two days later due to dysentery. The development, birth, and death of Noah became a platform for conservationists and ethicists to critique the role of cloning in society and as a method to conserve species.

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