Developmental biology

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Developmental biology is the study of the process by which organisms grow and develop. Modern developmental biology studies the genetic control of cell growth, differentiation and "morphogenesis", which is the process that gives rise to tissues, organs and anatomy.

Contents

Related fields of study

Embryology is a subfield, the study of organisms between the one-cell stage (generally, the zygote) and the end of the embryonic stage. Embryology was originally a more descriptive science until the 20th century. Embryology and developmental biology today deal with the various steps necessary for the correct and complete formation of the body of a living organism.

The related field of evolutionary developmental biology was formed largely in the 1990s and is a synthesis of findings from molecular developmental biology and evolutionary biology which considers the diversity of organismal form in an evolutionary context.

Perspectives

The development of a new life is a spectacular process and represents a masterpiece of temporal and spatial control of gene expression. Developmental genetics studies the effect that genes have in a phenotype, given normal or abnormal epigenetic parameters. The findings of developmental biology can help to understand developmental abnormalities such as chromosomal aberrations that cause Down syndrome. An understanding of the specialization of cells during embryogenesis has provided information on how stem cells specialize into specific tissues and organs. This information has led, for example, to the cloning of specific organs for medical purposes.[1][2] Another biologically important process that occurs during development is apoptosis—programmed cell death or "suicide." Many developmental models are used to elucidate the physiology and molecular basis of this cellular process. Similarly, a deeper understanding of developmental biology can foster greater progress in the treatment of congenital disorders and diseases, e.g. studying human sex determination can lead to treatment for disorders such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

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