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Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Collection

A Brief Desciption

The Embryology Research Collection at Michigan was established by embryologists George Streeter and G. Carl Huber in the early 1900s with a mission to collect and describe the morphogenesis of human embryos at critical stages in prenatal life. For about 20 years up to 1957, the collection grew in numbers under the leadership of Professor Bradley M. Patten, whose primary interests were in heart and cardiovascular development.

From about that time on, the collection, under the leadership of Professor Alphonse Burdi, grew further with an additional focus on the embryology of craniofacial regions and related birth defect syndromes. Legally donated human embryos and fetuses added to the Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Collection during that period were chiefly from the second and early third trimesters of development.

Late in the year 2004, the Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Collection was deeded by the University of Michigan to the Human Developmental Anatomy Center (HDAC) at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, DC. Deeded materials included the complete embryological slide collection, of more than 2,000 specimens, the collection records, a correlative collection of embryology reprints, and a collection of original embryology illustrations. Under the HDAC leadership and supervision of Adrianne Noe, Ph.D., the Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Collection is now among other major embryology collections safely housed in a single research facility and made available to investigators from throughout the world for years to come.

 

 

The Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Research Collection

A Brief History

THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

Medical School

The establishment of the Embryology Research Collection at Michigan in the early 1900s was in response to the need for accurate descriptions of human embryos at critical stages in their development. Embryologists as George Streeter and G.Carl Huber began the Collection in the early 1900s. For about 20 years, up to 1957, the collection grew modestly in numbers under the leadership of Professor Bradley M. Patten whose primary interests focused on heart and cardiovascular development.

Since 1972, under the directorship and curatorship of Professor Alphonse R. Burdi, strategic planning sessions involving past, present, and potential users of the Michigan Embryology Research Collection pointed toward the essentiality of much-needed medical or teratologic thrust for the collection. With this re-direction of purposes, newly acquired human embryos and fetuses would be documented with as much historical information as could be made available. Since that time, the acquisition of new specimens (approximately 150 per year) has been ongoing with the cooperative activities between the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology (currently the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology) and obstetricians, pediatric dysmorphologists in the Teratology Unit, and pathologists in the University of Michigan Hospitals. Specimens received by the Burdi-Patten Embryology Research Collection and are accounted for and made available for study in accordance with the anatomical gift laws of the State of Michigan. The current collection consists of more than 2,000 prepared specimens.

While the Carnegie Collection was well-known, and still is known, as a premier research collection of chiefly first-trimester human embryos, it seemed both desirable and strategic that Michigan’s collection would complement the Carnegie Collection with focus on the acquisition of chiefly second trimester, and third trimester human specimens. The University of Michigan Burdi-Patten Collection was considered to be the largest collection of human embryos and fetuses available for scholarly studies in the United States today, and was a national resource available to investigators from throughout the world.

One of the primary missions for the Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Collection was to share specimens with responsible investigators from within and outside the university. Each specimen had a file which included such information as e.g., body size and anthropmetric data; organ weight analyses; and histologic analyses of key body organs and regions. Histologic preparations of embryos over the years usually followed the research interests of the collection director. Consistent with the tenets of human subjects research policies and procedures, a specimen file numerically coded (coded to protect confidentiality) with EH numbers (EH=Embryo Human) was then maintained for each of the specimens collected. Such information was made available to investigators who wish to assess normal and abnormal human morphogenesis using dependent variables that go beyond such classically-used measures of crown-rump and crown-heel lengths. Thus, users of the Michigan collection from throughout the world were able to study prenatal morphogenesis along population lines as are carried out in animal teratologic studies and clinical studies of human birth defects. Whenever, possible investigators contributed to individual specimen with data from their specific studies so that new information might be shared with other users of the same specimens. Specimens and facilities of the Michigan Embryology Research Collection were made available to visiting scientists with formalized research protocols.

The available human embryos and fetuses in the Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Collection, especially the 1,000-plus documented specimens acquired and prepared (i.e. stained and serially-sectioned) since 1972, were chiefly from the second and third trimesters of development. While the Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Collection continued with its longstanding focus on human morphogenesis, an adjunct collection of serially-sectioned animal (e.g., chick, rats, mice) embryos and fetuses was also available for comparative studies. Most recently, the collection was located in the Kresge Research Building on the Medical Center campus. Collection space and equipment were made available for the study of specimens within the research facility. Microscopes, tracing boxes, projectoscopes, computers, digitizing pads, and more specialized equipment for 3-D reconstructions were generally available. Researchers were welcomed to work in the Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Collection by appointment and were invited to submit to the Collection’s director a request to work with the collection. Such information was to include a description of the specimens needed in terms of age or size, population characteristics, type of sectioning, space and equipment needed, and approximate duration of the proposed visit. Submission of the protocol was requested early enough for purposes of scheduling and advising the prospective investigator on the availability of desired materials. Visiting scholars were asked to acknowledge the collection in any of their reports or publications based on collection specimens.

In recent years, under Professor Burdi’s directorship and his own longstanding research on patterns of normal and abnormal human development, a number of investigators have used the Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Research Collection to pursue clinical problems (e.g., single birth defects, syndromes, suspected teratogen exposures) associated with hypothesized or known embryological disturbances. Examples of such studies include: morphogenesis and histologic structure of calvarial sutures associated with the craniosynostoses; early morphogenesis of muscle fields in normal and cleft lip and palate prenates; anthropmetric patterns in prenatal craniofacial syndromes; the early morphogenesis and clinical correlates of oro-facial-digital syndromes; somatic growth and organ volume analyses as reference variables in assessing growth patterns of body regions and the design and testing of new 3-D high resolution computer imaging (HRCT) of prenatal skull development as related to emerging practices in prenatal craniofacial surgery.

Late in the year 2004, the Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Collection was deeded by The University of Michigan to the Human Developmental Anatomy Center at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, DC. Those deeded materials included the complete embryology slide collection, the collection records, a correlative collection of embryology reprints, and a collection of original embryology illustrations. Under the HDAC leadership and supervision of Adrianne Noe, Ph.D., the Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Collection is now among other major embryology collections safely housed in a single research facility and made available to scholars and investigators from throughout the world for years to come.

For more information:

Alphonse R. Burdi, Ph.D., Sci.D.
Professor Emeritus and Research Scientist Emeritus
Director and Curator Emeritus
Burdi-Patten Michigan Embryology Research Collection
Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
5804 Medical Science Bldg. 2
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109- 0616
Phone: 734.764.4358
FAX: 734.763.1166
Email - alburdi@umich.edu