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What does the term "developmentally programmed" mean? I can't seem to find a definition anywhere.

What would the alternative (i.e. not developmentally programmed) imply?

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    $\begingroup$ Where did you find this expression? That will probably help a bit. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b May 17 '14 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, this phrase can mean different things depending on the context - the answer still wouldn't be pages long if it included all contexts but it would make it a lot easier if you could provide that background information :) $\endgroup$ – Armatus May 17 '14 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ As in "development of secondary lymphoid organs happens during embryogenesis and is thought to be developmentally programmed" $\endgroup$ – Ethel O'Leat May 17 '14 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ The link to your source would help, not only the sentence. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b May 18 '14 at 6:45
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry yes I should have posted that in the first place --> doi:10.1038/nature13158 $\endgroup$ – Ethel O'Leat May 18 '14 at 13:58
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The term could mean two things depending on the emphasis:

  • "developmentally programmed" would seem to emphasise the "programmed" nature of the development of something, implying that it is under specific regulation and the result of targeted energy expenditure ("Here, we describe widespread developmentally programmed nuclear destruction (PND) events that occur during yeast gametogenesis").
  • "developmentally programmed" would be intending to distinguish from other means of being programmed, i.e. this would go in the direction of a nature vs. nurture statement ("Hair colour is developmentally programmed and does not depend on external influences after fertilisation").

The first of the two appears to be the more common use of this phrasing if one wants to trust Google to be representative. Something along these lines might be intended in your example, though I don't see why this statement is necessary as it seems quite obvious that any organ that develops during embryogenesis is "developmentally programmed"...

I suppose the alternative ("not developmentally programmed") would imply that the development of secondary lymphoid organs is an accident which is not driven by specific mechanisms that exist for the particular purpose of developing them.

In any case, there is no magical scientific meaning to either of these two words, to me your example seems to be rather a mishap of phrasing.

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