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.
To study human evolution, researchers sometimes use microstructures found in human teeth and their knowledge of the processes by which those structures grow. Human fetusus begin to develop teeth in utero. As teeth grow, they form a hard outer substance, called enamel, through a process called amelogenesis. During amelogenesis, incremental layers of enamel form in a Circadian rhythm. This rhythmic deposition leaves the enamel with microstructures, called cross-striations and striae of Retzius, which have a regular periodicity. Because enamel is not renewed throughout life like other tissues, teeth preserve the timing and details of a person's growth and development. Thus, enamel microstructures, from living people and from fossilized teeth, can be used to reconstruct the growth, development, and life histories of current and past humans. Researchers can also compare current and fossilized microstructures to trace changes in those traits over the course of human evolution.
The Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) documentary Life's Greatest Miracle (abbreviated Miracle, available at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/miracle/program.html), is arguably one of the most vivid illustrations of the making of new human life. Presented as part of the PBS television series NOVA, Miracle is a little less than an hour long and was first aired 20 November 2001. The program was written and produced by Julia Cort and features images by renowned Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson. It comes as a sequel to the award-winning 1983 NOVA production, The Miracle of Life, which exhibits Nilsson's photography as well. The program showcases a combination of graphic animation, endoscopic and microscopic footage, as well as the story of a couple who are expecting a child. It features a number of new technological and scientific developments not present in its prequel, providing additional relevant information. By depicting human development in a clear and fresh manner, Miracle helps shed light on this indispensible aspect of life. Following is a description of the documentary, highlighting the key points of the film and explaining images featured in it.
Rh incompatibility occurs when a pregnant woman whose blood type is Rh-negative is exposed to Rh-positive blood from her fetus, leading to the mother s development of Rh antibodies. These antibodies have the potential to cross the placenta and attach to fetal red blood cells, resulting in hemolysis, or destruction of the fetus 's red blood cells. This causes the fetus to become anemic, which can lead to hemolytic disease of the newborn. In severe cases, an intrauterine blood transfusion for the fetus may be required to correct the anemia.
Meiosis, the process by which sexually-reproducing organisms generate gametes (sex cells), is an essential precondition for the normal formation of the embryo. As sexually reproducing, diploid, multicellular eukaryotes, humans rely on meiosis to serve a number of important functions, including the promotion of genetic diversity and the creation of proper conditions for reproductive success. However, the primary function of meiosis is the reduction of the ploidy (number of chromosomes) of the gametes from diploid (2n, or two sets of 23 chromosomes) to haploid (1n or one set of 23 chromosomes). While parts of meiosis are similar to mitotic processes, the two systems of cellular division produce distinctly different outcomes. Problems during meiosis can stop embryonic development and sometimes cause spontaneous miscarriages, genetic errors, and birth defects such as Down syndrome.
Walter Edward Dandy studied abnormalities in the developing human brain in the United States in the twentieth century. He collaborated with pediatrician Kenneth Blackfan to provide the first clinical description of Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a congenital brain malformation in which the medial part of the brain, called the cerebellar vermis, is absent. Dandy also described the circulation of cerebral spinal fluid, the clear, watery fluid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord. That description led Dandy to examine how the impeded flow of cerebral spinal fluid caused congenital hydrocephalus, which occurs when fluid accumulates in the brain causes it to swell. Dandy discovered brain anomalies that primarily develop during embryonic development, and his work helped to detect brain abnormalities.
Dandy-Walker Syndrome is a congenital brain defect in humans characterized by malformations to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement, and to the ventricles, the fluid-filled cavities that surround the cerebellum. The syndrome is named for physicians Walter Dandy and Arthur Walker who described associated signs and symptoms of the syndrome in the 1900s. The malformations often develop during embryonic stages. In early infancy, symptoms include slow motor development and a progressive enlargement of the skull due to cerebrospinal fluid accumulation called hydrocephalus. The prognosis of Dandy-Walker syndrome is highly variable, ranging from minor or negligible birth defects to profound malformations, disability, or early death.
Widely known as a key contributor to the Roman Catholic Church's body of doctrine, St. Thomas Aquinas also published an opinion on the moral status of embryos and fetuses that seems contradictory to the Catholic Church's current standpoint on the matter. Born in Naples, Italy, around 1225 (scholars debate the exact year of many of his life events) to wealthy nobility, Thomas Aquinas quickly proved himself a pious and astute scholar with an insatiable desire for logic and understanding. After receiving his formative education in Montecassino and Naples, Italy, Aquinas joined the order of the Dominicans. His desire for the holy life shocked and upset his family, who lamented his choice of a poor lifestyle devoted to service. To prevent Aquinas from following through with his plan, his family held him captive in the San Giovanni fortress in Rocca Secca, Italy, for nearly two years. After his mother and siblings noted his devotion to the Church evidenced by his daily studies and constant writing (not to mention his dismissal of concubines), they relented and allowed him to take his vows with the Dominicans around 1245. It is also estimated that he officially received his Master's in the Arts from the University of Naples around this time.
Many difficulties can arise with a pregnancy even after the sperm successfully fertilizes the oocyte. A major problem occurs if the fertilized egg tries to implant before reaching its normal implantation site, the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants anywhere other than in the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies cannot continue to term, so a physician must remove the developing embryo as early as possible. Although no longer a significant risk to the mother's life due to improved detection methods as well as treatment procedures following detection, ectopic pregnancies can still pose a major risk to the mother's health if not detected early. If the fallopian tube ruptures as a result of an ectopic pregnancy, the physician can either try to repair the fallopian tube or remove the damaged portion. Various risk factors predisposing women to a higher chance of ectopic pregnancy include fallopian tube scarring, damaged fallopian tubes due to past ectopic pregnancies, or an inflamed fallopian tube.