Biologically speaking, “human development begins at fertilization,” when a woman and a man each combine 23 of their own chromosomes through the union of their reproductive cells. The DNA in the 46 chromosomes of the resulting embryo (zygote stage), then only one cell in size, already contains some 3 billion base pairs of digital data, the genetic blueprint for the entire human body...
An Education Resource Fund documentary titled The Science of Life Before Birth has been named a 2023 Viddy Gold film award winner. The Viddy Awards recognize “Outstanding achievement in video and digital skills.” The Viddy Awards competition is administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP) organization. This international group consists…
“By convention, obstetricians date pregnancy from presumed first day of the last normal menstrual period (LMP). This is gestational age, which in embryology is superfluous because gestation does not begin until fertilization of an oocyte occurs. Embryonic [or fetal] age [also described as fertilization or conceptional age] begins at fertilization, approximately 2 weeks after the LNMP…. The day on which fertilization occurs is the most accurate reference point for estimating [embryonic or fetal] age ….” The Developing Human, Clinically Oriented Embryology, Moore, Persaud & Torchia, Elsevier, 10th Ed. (2016). Unless otherwise noted, all embryonic and fetal ages in Education Resource Fund curricular materials are estimated in weeks/months following fertilization.
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The Education Resource Fund (ERF) recently announced an extraordinary new series of pregnancy-related science documentaries which illustrate the biology of prenatal development using sophisticated medical imaging technologies and procedures which enable researchers to visualize embryos and fetuses, alive in the uterus, with never-before-seen clarity. ERF is a science foundation which produces films and other curricular…
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"I hold a multiple subject teaching credential in the state of California and I have been a public elementary school teacher since 2004. My primary focus has been Kindergarten, First and Second grade.
I recently examined the ERF coloring pages which depict embryos and fetuses developing in utero. This is an amazing interactive resource for children of all ages. It's extremely user friendly. The high-resolution prenatal images next to the coloring book line drawings are fantastic! This is an instructive resource that can be used effectively in the classroom setting.
I also reviewed the ERF site where I watched the children's version of the ERF prenatal video. Like the coloring pages, the children’s edition of the ERF prenatal science documentary is also an amazing resource! All content is age-appropriate for even the youngest children."
Embryoscopy, fetoscopy, and high-resolution ultrasound imagery, showing embryonic and fetal development.
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Subtitles in 92 languages for ERF video
"The Science of Life Before Birth"
Choose Your Preferred Subtitle Language Here:
We have prepared the script of “The Science of Life Before Birth” in 92 different languages. You can download a PDF of each of those translations by following the links below.
High-resolution images of embryos and fetuses developing in utero
See Baby Grow app video
The See Baby Grow app video depicts embryos and fetuses, alive in the uterus, throughout every stage of pregnancy. These preborn babies have been scanned using embryoscopy and fetoscopy medical imaging technology, as well as high-resolution, research-grade sonography. The narration describes developmental anatomy and physiology as it unfolds through all three trimesters of pregnancy.
If you are a medical practitioner or science educator/researcher, or a student, please consider offering an endorsement for this project.
Professional reviews neither state nor imply institutional endorsement.
Post the following prenatal development facts on your social media:
The ERF prenatal videos featured at www.ERF.science are updated and expanded variants of the science documentary titled "The Biology of Prenatal Development."
Principal Technical Advisor:
Mark T. Cullen, M.D.
James H. Baker, Ph.D.
Enid Gilbert-Barness, M.D.
David H. Bernanke, Ph.D.
Mark J. Holterman, M.D., Ph.D.
David L. Bolender, Ph.D.
Paul A. Krieg, Ph.D.
Professor Stuart Campbell, D.Sc.
Maria Michejda, M.D,
Bruce M. Carlson, M.D., Ph.D.
Maurice J. Pescitelli Jr., Ph.D.
Julian E. De Lia, M.D., M.B.A.
Charles L. Saxe, Ill, Ph.D.
Charles H. Ellis Jr., Ph.D.
Mark F. Seifert, Ph.D.
Ona Marie Faye-Petersen, M.D.
Allan R. Sinning, Ph.D.
David W. Fontaine, M.D.
Bradley R. Smith, Ph.D.
Ravmond F. Gasser, Ph.D.
Sam R. Voora, M.D.
ENDORSEMENTS OF THE BIOLOGY OF PRENATAL DEVELOPMENT
“Truly unlike anything I’ve seen before in the area of human development. The graphics, mixed with tape of actual intrauterine developing fetuses, makes the biology of human development…..human! I would offer it to both science…
The International Institute for the Treatment of Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome
St. Joseph Regional Medical Center*
Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology
Medical College of Wisconsin*
“This video provides a splendid review of prenatal human development from fertilization to birth. The intrauterine videophotography and imaging is exquisite and breathtaking and allows the viewer to witness the different stages and external features…
Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Indiana University School of Medicine*
“This is a well conceived and executed video. The use of different types of images is well thought out and effective. The text is accurate and well chosen. This video is particularly appropriate for an…
Department of Cell Biology
Emory University School of Medicine*
“The Biology of Prenatal Development does a wonderful job of presenting and describing the milestones of human development from conception to birth. The video sequences and animations provide beautiful visual representations of the concepts described through…
Associate Professor and Director, Biomedical Visualization Graduate Program
School of Art and Design
University of Michigan*
Senior Associate Research Scientist
Department of Radiology
University of Michigan Medical School*
“This video is a significant contribution for the education of the general public about human prenatal life. The many colored images of living, moving embryos and fetuses reveal the remarkable beauty of life inside the…
Emeritus Professor, Cell Biology and Anatomy
Adjunct Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center*
“An excellent program. Should be very useful for pathologists, obstetricians, ultrasonographers, [and] perinatologists.”
Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
Professor of Pediatrics
Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology
University of South Florida College of Medicine*
“This beautifully produced video provides an impressive overview of human development from conception to birth in a very clear, concise presentation. The informative and engaging format includes a continuous timeline to emphasize the sequence and…
Associate Professor of Anatomy
Medical University of South Carolina*
“This visually compelling video provides important insights into the dynamism of the developing human embryo. The images can be used to supplement existing teaching tools in courses on developmental biology.”
Assistant Professor of Surgery
Division Chief, Pediatric Surgery
University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago*
“The Biology of Prenatal Development is an excellent overview of key features of human embryonic development. It contains amazing video sequences of human embryos combined with helpful animations and very understandable narration. It reveals the mystery…
Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy
Graduate Faculty, Program in Cell & Developmental Biology
Medical College of Wisconsin*
“This video production is a uniquely crafted portrayal of human embryofetal development that is completed by a succinct, but very accurate, description of the process. It is a joint effort that has utilized the expertise…
Associate Professor of Pathology and Obstetrics & Gynecology
University of Alabama School at Birmingham*
Head, UAB Microdissection Laboratory for Perinatal Pathology
Department of Pathology, Anatomic Division
“The Biology of Prenatal Development provides an amazing view of human embryonic and fetal development. It would be a great supplement to developmental biology courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and medical school level.”
Department of Cell Biology
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine*
“The combination of exquisite images and a clear, carefully researched text makes this video an unparalleled resource for all who are interested in the mysteries of life before birth.”
“The developmental period before birth is increasingly understood as a time of preparation during which the developing human acquires the many structures, and practices the many skills, needed for survival after birth. As our understanding of early human development advances, so too will our ability to enhance health––both before and after birth.”
The Biology of Prenatal Development, a documentary film originally distributed by the National Geographic Society
The following science documentaries, medical textbooks, and medical journal articles are among the many educational resources which provide useful information regarding the biology of prenatal development:
Medical Journal Articles
Farcically Funny, Fanatical Fetal Fans
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Needless to say, none of the LOL funny parody memes depicted below could possibly have been authored, sponsored, or approved by any of the humorless bureaucrats who inhabit the deans offices of any of the schools at whose over-the-top sports fans we poke some good natured fun. We, and only we, the Education Resource Fund, are the comedic culprits.
THE INTRICATE ORIGINS OF PRENATAL & GLOBAL IMAGERY, FROM ENDOSCOPES TO TELESCOPES
ERF’s embryo and fetus pictures are derived from many smaller images “stitched” together in much the same manner NASA uses to combine satellite photo “tiles” to form a large “mosaic.”
The Education Resource Fund’s (www.ERF.Science) human embryo and fetus imagery was initially derived by teams of physician researchers and clinicians employing endoscopy (and its subsets, embryoscopy and fetoscopy) to diagnose and treat prenatal disorders in utero. Endoscopes are medical imaging devices which permit the minimally invasive, high resolution observation of tissues inside the human body. At the distal end of these instruments is an objective lens designed for imaging. At the proximal end is an eyepiece, or sensor, which enables viewing.
HOW THEY WORK
These scopes generally consist of a tube which encloses a relay lens system (in rigid endoscopes) or a fiber bundle (for fiber-optic, or flexible, endoscopes) for illumination and to transmit an image from the objective lens inside the body to the proximal end outside.
Said differently, endoscopes use optical elements to direct light to the area sought to be illuminated and transmit the resulting image to the eye or detector. Rigid endoscopes generally offer superior resolution or magnification. But an endoscope’s objective lens is only approximately 1/5 of an inch in diameter, and this relatively small size substantially narrows the observer’s field of view (even with the addition of supplemental lenses such as “negative” or “prism” optics, etc.).
This limitation is further compounded by the need to use the scope in very confined spaces, with only short distances separating the objective lens from the anatomical structures being imaged. As a consequence, only a small segment of the embryo or fetus is observable at any point along the timeline of the scan. An endoscope’s construction must also accommodate frequently conflicting design considerations. The resulting compromises can involve not only fields of view, but depths of field (meaning thickness of the plane of focus) and image illumination and magnification, as well as distortion issues (i.e., stretched or compressed perspective), etc.
So to depict a high quality, single image of the entire embryo or fetus, large numbers of smaller, more detailed pictures must be joined together in a manner suggestive of the process by which puzzle pieces are assembled to form a completed picture.
This technique employs a complex proprietary process which combines segmental scans to create a final composite image. The resulting picture is digitally adjusted to preserve each segment’s original color, resolution, contrast, illumination, etc. Technicians also correct for vignetting (image degradation or loss at the periphery of the frame).
MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING & ULTRASOUND
The British medical journal Lancet has published a prenatal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study involving the creation of 3D pictures to diagnose and treat congenital heart problems afflicting fetuses still in the uterus. The BBC reports that “A series of 2D pictures of the heart are taken from different angles using an MRI machine” to image the fetus.
The story explains that “Sophisticated computer software pieces the images together, adjusts for the beating of the heart and builds … [a] 3D image of the heart.” A pediatric cardiologist describes the resulting 3D images as “beautiful.”
This MRI research is part of a fetal diagnostic project which is also exploring scans using “four ultrasound probes at the same time – current scans use one – to get a more detailed picture.” This process produces a more wholistic composite image.
NASA COMPOSITE IMAGERY (SINGLE MEDIUM)
ERF’s imaging process is conceptually similar to the technologies used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to produce wide-area satellite images of the earth’s surface. Until the launch of the Deep Space Climate Observatory Satellite (DSOVR), which now orbits one million miles from earth, NASA had no camera positioned sufficiently far from earth to capture the globe’s entire sunlit surface in a single photograph. As previously noted, an endoscope’s objective lens must also operate too near to an embryo or fetus to permit its entire anatomy to be imaged in a single frame. This is the same constraint which complicates the capture of satellite imagery. Previous pictures of the earth could, therefore, only be created using digital stitching technology to make one large composite image from smaller segments. Scientists sometimes describe this final image (or “data set”) as a “mosaic,” comprised of many individual tiles.
HYBRID IMAGERY (MULTI-MEDIA)
A satellite picture can also be augmented by aerial photography (cameras on aircraft platforms) to improve resolution. Hybrid images of this sort can be created by superimposing black and white imagery (for still higher resolution) over color pictures of the same area, the latter to optimize chromic (color) fidelity.
The scientific press, for instance, reports that the Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA) “combined over one thousand precise, calibrated satellite images with other data from the continent’s surface to create a single picture of the entire continent.” The high magnification factor (think telephoto lenses which enlarge image objects) of each of these puzzle pieces yielded a composite picture depicting more detail than would have been visible in a single photo shot with a wide angle lens.
1 Illustrated Panel of Medical Textbook and Journal Quotes Related to Heartbeat and Brainwave Anatomy and Physiology, in 49 Languages
Stock Image Resources
Many stock image resources are available across the internet. These links provide quick access to embryonic and fetal imagery available for free or for purchase.
The Education Resource Fund is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) science foundation, which facilitates the creation and distribution of a broad range of instructional materials authored and produced by individuals and organizations whose branded and copyrighted projects (domestic and international) advance the state of knowledge in subject areas vital to the public interest.