"Cell and tissue, shell and bone, leaf and flower, are so many portions of matter, and it is in obedience to the laws of physics that their particles have been moved, moulded and conformed. They are no exceptions to the rule that God always geometrizes. Their problems of form are in the first instance mathematical problems, their problems of growth are essentially physical problems, and the morphologist is, ipso facto, a student of physical science."
"Dr. Haldane called himself an organicist, which implied being anti-mechanist and yet not a mystic vitalist — I never quite grasped what he really meant. At any rate it led to some passages at arms. As I was describing some experiment which demanded a mechanistic explanation, he burst out with "But it's a norganism, my dear young fellow, a norganism.""
"Early on in his career one of T. H. Morgan's professors tried to dissuade him from pursuing what came to be known as genetics because all the great discoveries in the next few years were going to be made in embryology. Generation after generation, biologists have thought that at long last developmental embryology was about to reach a stage in its development that would permit a major theoretical synthesis. Little by little, links between embryology and genetics have been forged to produce developmental genetics. However, a synthesis with evolutionary biology has been slower in making itself felt. Present-day embryologists once again are predicting a major new synthesis. This time they might be right."
"Over the past twenty years there has been a revolution in biology: for the first time we have begun to understand how organisms make themselves. The mechanisms by which a fertilised egg develops into an adult can now be grasped in a way that was unimaginable a few decades ago. Yet this revolution has been a curiously silent one. Our new picture of how organisms develop has been inaccessible to all but a small community of biologists. This is largely because the jargon and technical complexities have prevented many of the new and exciting findings from being communicated to a wider audience. Moreover, as scientists have concentrated on unravelling the details of the story, many of the broader implications of our new found knowledge have remained unvoiced. In my view this is particularly unfortunate because the study of development provides one of the most fertile meeting grounds for science, art and philosophy."
Developmental biology — the study of the processes by which adult organisms are generated — is one of the fastest growing and exciting areas in the life sciences. Although still reputed to be rather dull in some (uninformed) quarters, it is becoming "a central organizing discipline in biology, relating cell and molecular biology, anatomy, ecology, evolution, and medicine to each other" (Scott F. Gilbert). This is the result of the "molecular explosion" and other scientific breakthroughs in the last fifteen years or so. Gilbert lists no less than six such "revolutions":
• Molecular embryology: new knowledge about how the inherited genes are expressed differently in different populations of cells is changing our views as to how organs are made. Conclusions that had been stable since the 1920s are now being revised, if not completely overthrown, by studies that use more refined techniques;
• Biotechnology: the combining of developmental biology with biotechnology is promising to regenerate spinal neurons and bones for the first time in human history. The altering of our development by embryonic stem cells, cloning, and even the enhancement of our genetic endowment is now theoretically possible;
• Ecological developmental biology: as human activity alters the environment, the possible effects of global warming, pesticides, and other chemicals have incited a new interest in the environmental regulation and disruption of development;
• Clinical genetics: during the past five years, there has been an integration of human embryology and medical genetics to create a new medical developmental biology that seeks to understand and treat the molecular bases of birth defects;
• Evolutionary developmental biology ("evo devo"): the emergence of new phenotypes is made possible by changes in development. The regulatory genes that have long been thought to control the generation of novel structures are now being discovered;
• Bioethics: as a result of our new scientific abilities, there has been the emergence of an entire field of bioethics. The cloning of Dolly has brought both controversy and capital into developmental biology. Developmental biologists are suddenly being asked to discuss ethical and legal issues that they never before had to address.
(Adapted from the Preface to Gilbert, 2000)
Major issues include:
• cell proliferation
• cell differentiation
• cell interactions
• apoptosis and other forms of programmed cell death
• cleavage, cytoplasmic localization
• pattern formation
• embryonic induction, growth factors
• developmental genetics
• control of gene expression
• cancer and development.
(Leon W. Browder, University of Calgary, Canada)
A comprehensive resource in developmental biology. Features Dynamic Development, a set of modules to promote the understanding of embryonic development. Currently the modules are: The Foundations of Developmental Biology, Gametogenesis, From Sperm and Egg to Embryo, Genetic Regulation of Development, Organizing the Multicellular Embryo, Generating Cell Diversity, and a Developmental Biology Tutorial. The modules are multi-layered; initial access to each topic is at the introductory level, and complexity is added using hyperlinks to more advanced material.
Zygote: A Developmental Biology Website
(Scott F. Gilbert, Swarthmore College, USA)
Basically, the website is designed for intelligent browsers. The major function of this website is to provide materials to supplement and enrich courses in developmental biology. It is not a textbook. While its chapter headings are those of a textbook, the learner is able to choose his or her own path through the different "exhibits". It is more like a museum than a book. The material here is loosely based on the theme: "this is really interesting; it's too bad I can't put it into the textbook." The website thus contains:
- material to update the Developmental Biology textbook (Gilbert 2000);
- studies deemed too medical or too specialized to put into the textbook;
- details of experiments that were not needed in a textbook designed for college juniors and seniors;
- philosophical, sociological, and historical studies in developmental biology. These include ethical issues raised by new technologies;
- interviews with people in the field who have been influential in the "morphogenesis" of developmental biology;
- opinions (labeled as such) that can be used as a springboard for discussion.
Kalthoff, Analysis of Biological Development, 2001
Coen, The Art of Genes, 1999
"It is arguable that the most important advance in biology in the past twenty years has been the revolution in our understanding of the mechanisms of development.... Developmental biology has been transformed from a field in which ingenious manipulative experiments generated speculations about unobservable underlying causes, such as gradients and prepatterns, to one in which we have a very detailed knowledge of what is actually going on at the molecular and cellular level. Enrico Coen has written a book that attempts, with considerable success, to convey the essence of this revolution to the lay reader. It will also be of great interest to those biologists ... who have only a superficial knowledge of the subject." (TREE)
Wolpert/Beddington/Brockes/Jessell/Lawrence/Meyerowitz, Principles of Development, 1998
Designed for undergraduates as well as graduates; emphasis on principles and key concepts.
"Central to our approach is that development can be best understood by understanding how genes control cell behavior We have assumed that the students have some very basic familiarity with cell biology and genetics, but all key concepts, like the control of gene activity, are explained in the text. Conscious of the pressures on students, we have tried to make the principles as clear as possible and to provide numerous summaries, both in words and in pictures. The illustrations in the book are a special feature and have been carefully designed and chosen to illuminate both experiments and mechanisms." (From the authors' Preface)
Gilbert, Developmental Biology (6th ed.), 2000
"The poet Vladimir Mayakowsky wrote that revoutions of content require revolutions of structure. And if any science has had a revolution in content, it is developmental biology. The structure of the Sixth Edition of Developmental Biology has changed significantly to account for several ongoing revolutions of content. It has also been rewritten to emphasize a core of developmental biology paradigms and principles. In the revision process, Developmental Biology's Sixth Edition actually became about 200 pages shorter than its predecessor. This was accomplished by putting much of the more advanced material, as well as nearly all the material now covered in introductory biology textbooks, onto the website that is integrated with the text. The growth of developmental biology actually made it easier to organize chapters. Studies on phenomena that had been considered separate entities can be brought together into coherent stories. So this edition has rearranged its chapters to best introduce new biology students to the remarkable embryos and the ways we study them." (From the author's Preface)
Browder/Erickson/Jeffery, Developmental Biology (3rd ed.), 1991
"Developmental biology is taught in a variety of formats. We have attempted to write a versatile book that should be appropriate for courses that emphasize cellular and molecular aspects of development as well as those that focus on descriptive embryology and morphogenesis. However, the book will be particularly useful for those courses that cover both the molecular and descriptive aspects of development. The approach that we have taken should be compatible with courses at various levels of instruction, from undergraduate to graduate." (From the authors' Preface)
Shostak, Embryology, 1991
"Addressed to advanced undergraduates, Embryology provides biology majors with information on embryos that they will need in other courses. Students with aspirations to careers in health sciences and medicine receive fundamentals for acquiring more precise knowledge of human development, and students on their way to graduate school obtain contemporary information on the known and unknown sides of embryos. Embryology also serves as a reference, a lexicon, a source of data, and a window to the literature of embryology." (From the authors' Preface)
Rose, Lifelines, 1997
"Much has been written in opposition to narrowly reductionist approaches to biology, but much of that is anti-scientific, tending to vitalism if not to outright mysticism. This is not a charge that can be levelled at Steven Rose, a highly respected biochemist and a convinced materialist. Nor does Rose take an entirely negative approach, making hit-and-run attacks on individual weak points. His target in Lifelines is genetic reductionism (and his bete noire is Richard Dawkins, of The Selfish Gene fame), but his reach extends as far as the presentation of a complete alternative philosophy of biology. An outline of this forms the first chapter....
Lifelines is an important book. As an attempt to give the lay reader a high-level overview of biology that doesn't hide its complexities, it lacks the simplicity — and perhaps much of the attraction — of popular science books which focus on single ideas, offer simple answers, and sweep complex epistemological and philosophical issues under the carpet. Lifelines is, however, an important antidote to the misunderstandings about biology that such simplifications can produce, and should certainly be read by anyone who has uncritically swallowed Dawkins' The Selfish Gene or Wilson's Sociobiology. While Rose's own philosophical framework is hardly uncontroversial, even opponents should find it valuable as a challenge and a source of ideas."
Hall, Evolutionary Developmental Biology (2nd. ed.), 1998
Exploring the observation that changes during individual embryonic development parallel changes in a species' evolution, discusses how development processes affect evolutionary change, and how development itself has evolved. Focuses on vertebrates.
Raff, The Shape of Life, 1996
Rudolf Raff is recognized as a pioneer in evolutionary developmental biology. In their 1983 book, Embryos, Genes, and Evolution, Raff and co-author Thomas Kaufman proposed a synthesis of developmental and evolutionary biology. In The Shape of Life, Raff analyzes the rise of this new experimental discipline and lays out new research questions, hypotheses, and approaches to guide its development. Raff uses the evolution of animal body plans to exemplify the interplay between developmental mechanisms and evolutionary patterns. Animal body plans emerged half a billion years ago. Evolution within these body plans during this span of time has resulted in the tremendous diversity of living animal forms. Raff argues for an integrated approach to the study of the intertwined roles of development and evolution involving phylogenetic, comparative, and functional biology. This new synthesis will interest not only scientists working in these areas, but also paleontologists, zoologists, morphologists, molecular biologists, and geneticists.
Bonner, Life Cycles, 1993
Within a single captivating narrative, John Bonner combines an intensely personal memoir of scientific progress and an overview of what we now know about living things. Bonner, a major participant in the development of biology as an experimental science, draws on his life-long study of slime molds for an understanding of the life cycle-the foundation of all biology. In an age of increasing specialization and fragmentation among subfields of biology, this is a unique work of reflection and integration.
Chauvet, La vie dans la matière, 1995
Bonner, The Evolution of Complexity, 1988
"This is a delightful book, and rare in that it delivers what its title promises. Bonner begins with a short explanation of the orthodox neo-Darwinian "modern synthesis," to which he adheres, and then turns to complexity and its evolution. He defines the complexity of an organism as the number of types of cells in it....
Having defined "complexity," Bonner presents his thesis: the complexity of the most complex living things has increased over time. The qualification is important, at often missing from similar theses propounded by, e.g., physicists and mathematicians. As Stephen Jay Gould puts it, the Age of Bacteria is not about to end any time soon....
In summary, Bonner's argument goes as follows: Filling a previously empty niche does wonders for the reproductive success of an organism; variations which increase size make new niches available, and so are favorably selected. But, owing to constraints imposed by basic physics and chemistry, larger organisms must be more specialized internally, i.e. more complex, to be as efficient as smaller ones, or even just to survive, so the selection is especially favorable for larger and more complex organisms. Because of the way developmental processes work, this complexity will probably be retained even by later, smaller organisms in other niches. Voila: the evolution of complexity, by means of natural selection."
Buss, The Evolution of Individuality, 1987
Raff/Kaufman, Embryos, Genes, and Evolution, 1983
Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny, 1977
Waddington, Principles of Development and Differentiation, 1966
(Available online; Springer.) Original articles and review articles on morphology and developmental biology of vertebrates, especially mammals. Anatomy and fine structure of tissues and organs; neuroanatomy; morphological techniques; embryology; developmental studies.
A primary research journal providing an insight into mechanisms of plant and animal development, covering all aspects from molecular and cellular to tissue levels.
Development and Evolution
(Monthly; available online; Springer.) Publishes high quality reports on all major aspects of development biology. A continuation of "Roux's Archives of Development Biology"; as such, it follows the tradition initiated by Wilhelm Roux, who founded the journal in 1890 as a forum for the exchange of ideas to promote experimental embryology. The change of name to Development, Genes and Evolution manifests the journal's new, broader scope. The journal reports on experimental work at the systemic, cellular and molecular levels in the field of animal and plant systems, covering aspects of the following topics: developmental diversity and evolution; genes and pattern formation in invertebrates, vertebrates and plants; axial patterning, embryonic induction and fate maps; neural development and cell lineages; morphogenetic movements and the cell surface.
(Biweekly, available online; Academic Press.) Research areas include molecular genetics of development, control of gene expression, cell interactions and cell-matrix interactions, mechanisms of differentiation, growth factors and oncogenes, regulation of stem cell populations, gametogenesis and fertilization, developmental endocrinology, and plant development. Online access is free for the year 2001.
Official publication of the American Association of Anatomists, provides a focus for communication among developmental biologists who study the emergence of form during animal development. An international forum for the exchange of novel and significant information gained from analytical and theoretical investigations on the mechanisms that control morphogenesis. Seeks manuscripts on work done at all levels of biological organization ranging from the molecular to the organismal. Representative topics of interest include: mechanisms underlying morphogenesis pattern formation; tissue organization and repair; transcriptional and post-transcriptional controls governing the emergence of diverse biologic form; analytical methods for the visualization of molecular, cytologic, and ultrastructural aspects of dynamic developmental processes; cell-cell signalling and cell-matrix interactions; genetic and molecular probes for the study of cell lineages and developmental pathways; transgenic approaches for studying the control of tissue- and organ-specific gene expression; mathematical models of morphogenetic processes. In addition to publishing full-length research articles, Developmental Dynamics offers a Brief Communications section providing authors with a forum to present their novel research results to the developmental biology community before a complete story has been developed. A thorough analysis of novel patterns of gene expression that reveal new insights in developmental mechanisms is suitable and welcome. The journal also offers a peer-reviewed Reviews section.
(5 issues annually; Swets.) Covers the entire field of vertebrate morphology with emphasis on human embryology and anatomy. The range is from ultrastructural cytology to gross, especially clinical anatomy and morphological neuroscience. Specific topics are developmental, functional and projection anatomy. The Proceedings of the meetings of The Netherlands Association of Anatomists are published periodically. The Microwave Newsletter is published in every second issue. As from 1995, European Archives of Biology (EAB), founded in 1886, has been incorporated in the European Journal of Morphology. The scope of the incorporated European Archives of Biology (1 issue per year) covers general biology of invertebrates and vertebrates with special emphasis on developmental and reproductive biology, as well as experimental and descriptive teratology. Audience: anatomists, morphologists and embryologists, and neuroscientists.
[TOCS (February 1997— )]
(8 issues annually; University of the Basque Country Press.)
Mechanisms of Development (1995— )
(Available online; Elsevier.) An international journal whose purpose is to communicate contemporary studies in developmental biology with special emphasis on the characterization of molecular mechanisms underlying development processes in either vertebrates, invertebrates or plants. Areas of particular interest include embryogenesis, pattern formation, cell determination and differentiation, specification of tissue type, targetted disruptions of developmental control genes, the roles of transcription factor in development, regulatory hierarchies of gene expression, cell-cell communication and signal transduction in development, as well as post-transcriptional controls of developmental processes such as regulated splicing and protein modification.
(Twice monthly.) An authoritative source of fundamental knowledge and new developments in all aspects of the molecular biology of eukaryotic cells. Essential to all scientists in the field, MCB publishes work on microbial as well as higher organisms and on viral systems where the emphasis is clearly on the cell. Scope includes: gene expression; transcriptional regulation; cell growth and development; nucleocytoplasmic communication; cell and organelle structure and assembly; DNA dynamics and chromosome structure; mammalian genetic models with minimal or complex phenotyes.
(Quarterly; available online; Wiley.)
MOLECULAR AND DEVELOPMENTAL EVOLUTION (MDE) welcomes papers that contribute to a causal understanding of the evolution of development and how development influences patterns of molecular and phenotypic evolution. Papers that take diverse disciplinary approaches, including developmental, molecular, genetic, evolutionary, systematic, ecological, and paleontological, will be published. MDE seeks research articles without page restriction or charges, review articles, invited commentaries, and book reviews. The Editor-in-Chief has discretion over the use of a number of free color plates. Only color illustrations that highlight the text and convey essential scientific information will be considered for reproduction free of charge, subject to the recommendations of the reviewers and Associate Editors.
English-language translation of Ontogenez, has become a widely respected and influential forum. Presents fundamental and applied research, reviews and theory on development, regeneration, and carcinogenesis at the molecular, cellular, and organismic levels. Topics discussed include modernism of genetic expression, the influence of environmental factors on development, evolutionary aspects of ontogenesis, and comparative morphogenesis.
Ein Zusammenschluß von entwicklungsbiologisch arbeitenden Genetikern, Molekularbiologen, Medizinern, Zoologen und Botanikern des deutschen Sprachraums. Veranstaltet in zweijährigem Turnus dreitägige wissenschaftliche Tagungen und unterstützt außerdem Aktivitäten ihrer Mitglieder, wie zum Beispiel Kolloquien, Workshops oder Symposien. Die GfE ist Mitglied der European Developmental Biology Organization (EDBO). Über mehrere Rundschreiben im Jahr werden die Mitglieder über eigene und über internationale Aktivitäten aus dem Bereich der Entwicklungsbiologie unterrichtet. Die Gesellschaft zählt zur Zeit 280 Mitglieder.
Encourages and develops research and communication in the fields of cell and developmental biology, molecular biology and oncology through meetings and publications. Membership in the Society is open to workers in these fields with a professional degree or its equivalent in experience and to students enrolled in a graduate program leading to an advanced degree.
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) — Division of Developmental and Cell Biology (DDCB)
Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology (Tübingen, Germany)
The molecular mechanisms underlying spatial information in the embryo, communication between cells in induction processes, the morphogenesis and differentiation of tissues and organs, as well as the evolution of developmental mechanisms, are main topics of the scientific projects conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology.
Developmental Biology Journal Club
(University of Calgary)
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