“It’s an exciting time to be a developmental biologist, and to be exploring embryology as a subject. Embryology doesn’t end at birth.” – Philip R. Brauer, PhD
It’s an exciting time for embryology because of all the molecular biology and genetics that are coming into play in the field. The origins of diseases that were once unknown are now being revealed. Researchers are also finding that if something goes wrong with the embryo, it actually can appear in pathologies, not just at birth, but actually later in life. So what we’re discovering in the basic sciences is having a big impact in the clinics. The field of embryology is really dynamic—it’s fast and things go out of date quickly. Questions that have been around for a century are actually being answered now. So it’s an exciting time to be a developmental biologist, and to be exploring embryology as a subject. Embryology doesn’t end at birth.
One of the strengths of Larsen’s Human Embryology that attracted me when I first saw it in the nineties, and what is still important in the fourth edition, is the quality of the illustrations. They do a great job at conveying three-dimensional objects, which is difficult to do in a text book. The other aspect of the book that I found appealing when I read the first edition was that it takes findings in molecular biology and genetics and applies them to the subject of embryology. Before, many texts were fairly descriptive, but there wasn’t as much about the mechanisms—and it’s the mechanisms that, when they go wrong, actually end up causing congenital defects. So both the quality of the images and the merging of molecular and genetics into the text are still important features that we’ve been expanding on in this fourth edition.
In the time between the fourth and the fifth editions, new findings have come up. For instance, the role of the epicardium in making the coronary arteries is a very hot topic right now, and there have been some recent findings in that area that are actually kind of controversial. We’ll present those in the fifth edition of Larsen’s Human Embryology, in such a way to let people know what we’re sure about and where the controversies lie. The other thing we plan to do is to add other clinical vignettes at the end of the chapters to bring in what the readers have learned from the text and what they are studying in their research labs. We’ll also update the data to reflect new findings and add new drawings. So there are some beautiful images we have for the fifth edition.
Philip R. Brauer, PhD is a professor within the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha. He is an active researcher in the field of embryology, and his work within this area has been supported by the American Heart Association. Dr. Brauer is an editor of the fourth edition of Larsen’s Human Embryology.
After completing a BS in biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Dr. Brauer earned a PhD at the Medical College of Wisconsin. His current research focuses on the mechanisms controlling neural crest cell migration, and he has published numerous articles based on his findings.