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.
Related fields of study
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.
The findings of developmental biology can help to understand developmental malfunctions such as chromosomal aberrations
, for example, Down syndrome
. An understanding of the specialization of cells
during embryogenesis may yield information on how to specialize stem cells
to specific tissues and organs, which could lead to the specific cloning
of organs for medical purposes. Another biologically important process that occurs during development is apoptosis
- programmed cell death or "suicide". For this reason, 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
Concepts in developmental biology
Developmental model organisms
Often used model organisms in developmental biology include the following:
Developmental systems biology
Computer simulation of multicellular development is a research methodology to understand the function of the very complex processes involved in the development of organisms. This includes simulation of cell signaling, multicell interactions and regulatory genomic networks in development of multicellular structures and processes (see Biological Physics of the Developing Embryo
). Minimal genomes
for minimal multicellular organisms may pave the way to understand such complex processes in vivo