Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology

Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology

The Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology concentration focuses on the growing and self-renewing human body. The field is at the edge of modern research, focusing especially on stem cells and intercellular signaling pathways—areas with few materials at Houghton because of their young age as subjects and their dizzying self-updating rates. However, Houghton does possess plenty of historical materials about the field of regenerative biology, if only through its large medical collection. Though the items might not discourse about modern topics such as stem cell differentiation and epigenetics, they do contain wisdom about diseases and their supposed cures. Understanding a field’s history and development is as important as understanding its newest advancements, and Houghton’s collection contains plenty of material about the history of curing the human body and elongating its life span.

It is vital to understanding the human body’s structure to be able to fix it—even if through microscopic means. Houghton owns an early copy of Andreas Vesalius’ Anatomes Totivs (Typ 515.65.868, 007231964), a groundbreaking treatise that any student in the life sciences should see and appreciate. Receding even further in time, the library holds a 1430 manuscript copy of some of Hippocrates’ recommended remedies (MS Fr 124, 009180489), a testament to the evolution of medicine throughout the ages. Another interesting collection to explore—in conjunction with the Psychology concentration—is the Erik H. and Joan M. Erikson papers (MS Am 2031, 005665485). Erikson, one of the twentieth century’s foremost psychoanalysis, was a specialist on child development and the human lifespan—though from a psychological point of view. His studies, however, can be paired with biological research on human development and life expectancy to yield a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to human development and regeneration throughout life—one that involves a sane body and a sane mind.

Some more obscure Houghton materials can also provide interesting perspectives on human developmental and regenerative studies. An English seventeenth-century treatise, The Family Physician, and the House Apothecary (Med 258.47.5*, 005712629), and an eighteenth-century Dutch treatise in Latin by Herman Boerhaave, an important Dutch physician who was also a precursor of modern medical science (Med 252.35*, 004500883), are both works centered on domestic medicine that illustrate the state of the science of healing in their respective centuries. Another eighteenth century work, Pierre Pomet’s A Compleat History of Drugs (Med 266.20.3*, 001777206), is a remarkably thorough compendium of plants, roots, minerals, and even animals, with accompanying explanations about “their use in physick, chymistry, pharmacy, and several other arts.” This work, which can be paired with multiple other fields in the life sciences and even with some of the engineering sciences, is, once more, a valuable source on the beginnings of regenerative biology and the primitive forms it took before the technological advancements that allowed for the creation of concentrations such as HDRB.