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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.