Theories

Ernst Haeckel's Biogenetic Law (1866)

By M. Elizabeth Barnes

The biogenetic law is a theory of development and evolution proposed by Ernst Haeckel in Germany in the 1860s. It is one of several recapitulation theories, which posit that the stages of development for an animal embryo are the same as other animals' adult stages or forms. Commonly stated as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, the biogenetic law theorizes that the stages an animal embryo undergoes during development are a chronological replay of that species' past evolutionary forms.

Created 2014-05-03

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Karl Ernst von Baer's Laws of Embryology

By M. Elizabeth Barnes

In 1828, while working at the University of Konigsberg in Konigsberg, Germany Karl Ernst von Baer proposed four laws of animal development, which came to be called von Baer's laws of embryology. With these laws, von Baer described the development (ontogeny) of animal embryos while also critiquing popular theories of animal development at the time.

Created 2014-04-15

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Articles

"On the Origin of Mitosing Cells" (1967), by Lynn Sagan

By Dorothy Regan Haskett

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.

Created 2014-04-15

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Articles

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex (1998), by Alice Domurat Dreger

By Mary Drago

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, by historian of science Alice Domurat Dreger, was published in 1998 by Harvard University Press. In the book, Dreger describes how many doctors and scientists treated human hermaphrodites from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. She states that during this time period, many physicians and scientists struggled to determine the nature sex, and to support a classification of sex as male or female, many physicians and scientists resorted to viewing a person's gonads for identification of his or her sex.

Created 2014-04-09

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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The Role of the Notch signaling pathway in Somitogenesis

By Justin M. Wolter

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.

Created 2014-03-23

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Articles

Lynn Petra Alexander Sagan Margulis (1938-2011)

By Dorothy Regan Haskett

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.

Created 2014-03-23

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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The Blastoderm in Chicks During Early Gastrulation

By Chinami Michaels

This image shows a chicken (Gallus gallus) embryo undergoing gastrulation in stage four (18-19 hrs after laying) according to the Hamburger-Hamilton staging series. At this point in time the chicken embryo is a blastoderm (shown in blue). The first magnification of the embryo shows that the blastoderm cell layers have thickened to form the primitive streak and Hensen's node. The primitive streak extends from the posterior (P) region to the anterior (A) region. The second rectangular magnification shows the blastoderm cross-sectioned through the primitive streak.

Created 2014-02-26

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Graphics

A Fate Map of the Chick Embryo

By Chinami Michaels

A 3-D fate map of the chicken (Gallus gallus) embryo with the prospective point of ingression and yolk. The area where the primitive streak will form during gastrulation is shown. The anterior- posterior axis is shown by labeling the anterior and posterio ends (A) and (P). Different colors indicate prospective fates of different regions of the epiblast after gastrulation.

Created 2014-02-26

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Graphics

Endothelium

By Kate MacCord

The endothelium is the layer of cells lining the blood vessels in animals. It weighs more than one kilogram in adult humans, and it covers a surface area of 4000 to 7000 square meters. The endothelium is the cellular interface between the circulating blood and underlying tissue. As the medium between these two sets of tissues, endothelium is part of many normal and disease processes throughout the body.

Created 2014-01-28

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Frog Embryo in the Blastula Stage

By Chinami Michaels

Illustration of the animal-vegetal gradient in Xenopus laevis ( African clawed frog) eggs after fertilization. During fertilization, the sperm s point of entry determines the future dorsal side (shaded) and ventral side (unshaded) of the embryo. The prospective ventral side of the embryo forms on the side where the sperm enters while the prospective dorsal side forms opposite the sperm s point of entry.

Created 2013-12-16

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Graphics

The Process of Gastrulation in Frog Embryos

By Chinami Michaels

Illustration of the movement of the three hemispheres of cells, the animal cap (dark green) the marginal zone (lime green) and the ventral cap (yellow) during frog gastrulation. The external view column (images a.1-a.6) shows gastrulation as it occurs on the outside of the embryo. The cross-section view column (images b.1-b.6) shows the internal view of gastrulation. The cross-sections are through the middle of the embryo.

Created 2013-12-13

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Graphics

Essay: The Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate

By Valerie Racine

In 1830, a dispute erupted in the halls of lÕAcad mie des Sciences in Paris between the two most prominent anatomists of the nineteenth century. Georges Cuvier and tienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, once friends and colleagues at the Paris Museum, became arch rivals after this historical episode. Like many important disputes in the history of science, this debate echoes several points of contrasts between the two thinkers.

Created 2013-10-07

Last modified 1 month 1 week ago

Format: Essays and Theses

Germ Layers

By Kate MacCord

A germ layer is a group of cells in an embryo that interact with each other as the embryo develops and contribute to the formation of all organs and tissues. All animals, except perhaps sponges, form two or three germ layers. The germ layers develop early in embryonic life, through the process of gastrulation. During gastrulation, a hollow cluster of cells called a blastula reorganizes into two primary germ layers: an inner layer, called endoderm, and an outer layer, called ectoderm.

Created 2013-09-17

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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The Role of the Notch Signaling Pathway in Myogenesis

By Justin M. Wolter

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.

Created 2013-07-26

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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The Meckel-Serres Conception of Recapitulation

By Lindsey O'Connell

Johann Friedrich Meckel and Antoine Etienne Reynaud Augustin Serres developed in the early 1800s the basic principles of what later became called the Meckel-Serres Law. Meckel and Serres both argued that fetal deformities result when development prematurely stops, and they argued that these arrests characterized lower life forms, through which higher order organisms progress during normal development. The concept that the embryos of higher order organisms progress through successive stages in which they resemble lower level forms is called recapitulation.

Created 2013-07-10

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Human Evolution Inferred from Tooth Growth and Development

By Kate MacCord

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.

Created 2013-03-28

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Wilhelm Johannsen's Genotype-Phenotype Distinction

By B. R. Erick Peirson

Wilhelm Johannsen in Denmark first proposed the distinction between genotype and phenotype in the study of heredity in 1909. This distinction is between the hereditary dispositions of organisms (their genotypes) and the ways in which those dispositions manifest themselves in the physical characteristics of those organisms (their phenotypes). This distinction was an outgrowth of Johannsen's experiments concerning heritable variation in plants, and it influenced his pure line theory of heredity.

Created 2012-12-07

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Articles

Epithelium

By Kate MacCord

Frederik Ruysch, working in the Netherlands, introduced the term epithelia in the third volume of his Thesaurus Anatomicus in 1703. Ruysch created the term from the Greek epi, which means on top of, and thele, which means nipple, to describe the type of tissue he found when dissecting the lip of a cadaver. In the mid nineteenth century, anatomist Albrecht von Haller adopted the word epithelium, designating Ruysch's original terminology as the plural version. In modern science, epithelium is a type of animal tissue in which cells are packed into neatly arranged sheets.

Created 2012-10-17

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Richard Woltereck's Concept of Reaktionsnorm

By B. R. Erick Peirson

Richard Woltereck first described the concept of Reaktionsnorm (norm of reaction) in his 1909 paper 'Weitere experimentelle Untersuchungen uber Art-veranderung, speziell uber das Wesen quantitativer Artunterschiede bei Daphniden' ('Further investigations of type variation, specifically concerning the nature of quantitative differences between varieties of Daphnia'). This concept refers to the ways in which the environment can alter the development of an organism, and its adult characteristics.

Created 2012-09-06

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Fetus in Fetu

By Corinne DeRuiter

Fetus in fetu is a rare variety of parasitic twins , where the developmentally abnormal parasitic twin is completely encapsulated within the torso of the otherwise normally developed host twin. In the late eighteenth century, German anatomist Johann Friedrich Meckel was the first to described fetus in fetu, which translates to “fetus within fetus.” Fetus in fetu is thought to result from the unequal division of the totipotent inner cell mass , the mass of cells that is the ancestral precursor to all cells in the body.

Created 2012-05-30

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

The Source-Sink Model

By Jack Resnik

The source-sink model, first proposed by biologist Francis Crick in 1970, is a theoretical system for how morphogens distribute themselves across small fields of early embryonic cells. A morphogen is a substance that determines the fate and phenotype of a group of cells through a concentration gradient of itself across that group. Crick’s theory has been experimentally confirmed with several morphogens, most notably with the protein bicoid , the first discovered morphogen. The model provides a theoretical structure for the understanding of some features of early embryonic development.

Created 2012-05-07

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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The French Flag Model

By Jack Resnik

The French flag model represents how embryonic cells receive and respond to genetic information and subsequently differentiate into patterns. Created by Lewis Wolpert in the late 1960s, the model uses the French tricolor flag as visual representation to explain how embryonic cells can interpret genetic code to create the same pattern even when certain pieces of the embryo are removed. Wolpert's model has provided crucial theoretical framework for investigating universal mechanisms of pattern formation during development.

Created 2011-05-19

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Molecular Epigenetics and Development: Histone Conformations, DNA Methylation and Genomic Imprinting

By Tristan Cooper-Roth

Introduced by Conrad Hal Waddington in 1942, the concept of epigenetics gave scientists a new paradigm of thought concerning embryonic development, and since then has been widely applied, for instance to inheritable diseases, molecular technologies, and indeed the human genome as a whole. A genome contains an embedded intricate coding template that provides a means of genetic expression from the initial steps of embryonic development until the death of the organism. Within the genome there are two prominent components: coding (exons) and non-coding (introns) sequences.

Created 2010-09-28

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Reassessment of Carrel's Immortal Tissue Culture Experiments

By Lijing Jiang

In the 1910s, Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon and biologist, concluded that cells are intrinsically immortal. His claim was based on chick-heart tissue cultures in his laboratory that seemed to be able to proliferate forever. Carrel's ideas about cellular immortality convinced his many contemporaries that cells could be maintained indefinitely. In the 1960s, however, Carrel's thesis about cell immortality was put into question by the discovery that human diploid cells can only proliferate for a finite period.

Created 2010-06-28

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Stem Cell Tourism

By Christina Raup

When James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin announced in 1998 that he had derived and cultured human embryonic stem cells(hESCs), Americans widely believed-and accepted-that stem cells would one day be the basis of a multitude of regenerative medical techniques. Researchers promised that they would soon be able to cure a variety of diseases and injuries such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries, severe burns, and many others. But it wasn't until January 2009 that the Food and Drug Administration approved the first human clinical trials using hESCs.

Created 2010-06-14

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Articles

John von Neumann's Cellular Automata

Cellular automata (CA) are mathematical models used to simulate complex systems or processes. In several fields, including biology, physics, and chemistry, CA are employed to analyze phenomena such as the growth of plants, DNA evolution, and embryogenesis. In the 1940s John von Neumann formalized the idea of cellular automata in order to create a theoretical model for a self-reproducing machine. Von Neumann's work was motivated by his attempt to understand biological evolution and self-reproduction.

Created 2010-06-14

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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The Gradient Theory

By Mary E. Sunderland

The gradient theory is recognized as Charles Manning Child's most significant scientific contribution. Gradients brought together Child's interest in development and his fascination with the origins of individuality and organization. The gradient theory grew from his studies of regeneration, which were largely based on work he conducted with marine invertebrates, such as the ascidian flat worm, planaria and the hydroid, tubularia.

Created 2009-08-01

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Articles

Carnegie Stages

By Karen Wellner

Historically the exact age of human embryo specimens has long perplexed embryologists. With the menstrual history of the mother often unknown or not exact, and the premenstrual and postmenstrual phases varying considerably among women, age sometimes came down to a best guess based on the weight and size of the embryo. Wilhelm His was one of the first to write comparative descriptions of human embryos in the late 1800s. Soon afterward, Franklin P. Mall, the first director of the Carnegie Institution of Washington's (CIW) Department of Embryology, expanded upon His' work.

Created 2009-07-17

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Translational Developmental Biology

By Mary E. Sunderland

Translational developmental biology is a growing approach to studying biological phenomena that explicitly aims to develop medical therapies. When discussing the generation of new therapies it is often argued that they will emerge as a "translation" from "fundamental biology." Although translational research is not a new term, "translational developmental biology" has been steadily gaining popularity as discoveries in cell and developmental biology, particularly those involving stem cells, provide a basis for regenerative medicine.

Created 2009-06-10

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Articles

Thomas Hunt Morgan's Definition of Regeneration: Morphallaxis and Epimorphosis

By Mary E. Sunderland

For Thomas Hunt Morgan clarity was of utmost importance. He was therefore frustrated with the many disparate, disconnected terms that were used to refer to similar, if not the same, regenerative processes within organisms. When Morgan wrote Regeneration in 1901 there had been many different terms developed and adopted by various investigators to describe their observations. As a result there were many inconsistencies making it difficult to discuss results comparatively and also making it more challenging to generalize. Defining terms was a priority for Morgan.

Created 2009-06-09

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Hartsoeker's Homunculus Sketch from Essai de Dioptrique

By Cera R. Lawrence

This embryology image is a pencil sketch by Nicolaas Hartsoeker, published as part of his 1694 French-language paper entitled Essai de Dioptrique, a semi-speculative work describing the sorts of new scientific observations that could be done using magnifying lenses. Dioptrique was published in Paris by the publishing house of Jean Anisson. The image depicts a curled up infant-like human, now referred to as a homunculus, inside the head of a sperm cell.

Created 2008-08-14

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Ovism

By Cera R. Lawrence

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.

Created 2008-08-13

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Spermism

By Cera R. Lawrence

Spermism was one of two models of preformationism, a theory of embryo generation prevalent in the late seventeenth through the end of the eighteenth century. Spermist preformationism was the belief that offspring develop from a tiny fully-formed fetus contained within the head of a sperm cell. This model developed slightly later than the opposing ovist model because sperm cells were not seen under the microscope until about 1677.

Created 2008-08-13

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Preformationism in the Enlightenment

By Cera R. Lawrence

Preformationism was a theory of embryological development used in the late seventeenth through the late eighteenth centuries. This theory held that the generation of offspring occurs as a result of an unfolding and growth of preformed parts. There were two competing models of preformationism: the ovism model, in which the location of these preformed parts prior to gestation was the maternal egg, and the spermism model, in which a preformed individual or homunculus was thought to exist in the head of each sperm.

Created 2008-08-11

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Epigenetic Landscape

By Adam R. Navis

The epigenetic landscape is a concept representing embryonic development. It was proposed by Conrad Hal Waddington to illustrate the various developmental pathways a cell might take toward differentiation. The epigenetic landscape integrates the connected concepts of competence, induction, and regulative abilities of the genes into a single model designed to explain cellular differentiation, a long standing problem in embryology.

Created 2007-10-30

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

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Syncytial Theory

By Adam R. Navis

The syncytial theory of neural development was proposed by Victor Hensen in 1864 to explain the growth and differentiation of the nervous system. This theory has since been discredited, although it held a significant following at the turn of the twentieth century. Neural development was well studied but poorly understood, so Hensen proposed a simple model of development. The syncytial theory predicted that the nervous system was composed of many neurons with shared cytoplasm.

Created 2007-10-30

Last modified 7 months 2 weeks ago

Format: Articles

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