Int. J. Dev. Biol. 47: 193 - 201 (2003)
© UPV/EHU Press

Four decades of teaching developmental biology in Germany.

Horst Grunz

FB 9, Abteilung für Zoophysiologie, University of Essen, Germany. h.grunz@uni-essen.de

ABSTRACT I have taught developmental biology in Essen for 30 years. Since my department is named Zoophysiologie (Zoophysiology), besides Developmental Biology, I also have to teach General Animal Physiology. This explains why the time for teaching developmental biology is restricted to a lecture course, a laboratory course and several seminar courses. However, I also try to demonstrate in the lecture courses on General Physiology the close relationship between developmental biology, physiology, morphology, anatomy, teratology, carcinogenesis, evolution and ecology (importance of environmental factors on embryogenesis). Students are informed that developmental biology is a core discipline of biology. In the last decade, knowledge about molecular mechanisms in different organisms has exponentially increased. The students are trained to understand the close relationship between conserved gene structure, gene function and signaling pathways, in addition to or as an extension of, classical concepts. Public reports about the human genome project and stem cell research (especially therapeutic and reproductive cloning) have shown that developmental biology, both in traditional view and at the molecular level, is essential for the understanding of these complex topics and for serious and non-emotional debate.