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Hello, I am Cheryll Tickle, an Emeritus professor at
the University of Bath and this lecture introduces developmental biology.
Developmental biology is the study of how
a single cell, the fertilized egg, gives rise to a new organism.
This is surely one of the most inspiring processes in
biology and has fascinated scientists since ancient times.
In just over seven weeks,
a fertilized human egg, shown here on the left,
gives rise to an embryo with many recognizable features.
For example, the head with the eye can clearly be seen as can the arms and the legs.
Developmental biology, while focusing on embryonic development,
also covers events that occur after birth,
postnatally, such as growth and aging.
Developmental mechanisms are also involved in regeneration,
which is the ability of an adult organism to replace missing parts.
As development is fundamental to evolution,
evolutionary developmental biology, sometimes called
evo-devo is a very active area of research.
Why study developmental biology?
Well, first of all, it is an intrinsically interesting topic in its own right.
In addition, knowledge about
developmental mechanisms has applications in medicine and agriculture.
With regard to medical applications,
we would like to understand why development sometimes goes wrong.
Perhaps, less obviously, developmental biology can
also help our understanding of diseases such as cancer.
This is because cancer employs
the same cellular mechanisms as development and even the same molecules.
Another clinical area in which developmental biology
is having an increasing impact is in regenerative medicine.
If we understand how cells and tissues are used to build organs in the embryo,
this could suggest new approaches to repair and
replacement of damaged or diseased tissues.