Evolution of Embryology from Rational Science to Evidence-based Science

Document Type : Original Article


1 Scholar deptartment of Kulliyat Tibb, NIUM, Bangalore, India

2 Associate Professor, deptartment of Kulliyat Tibb, NIUM, Bangalore, India

3 Professor deptartment of Tahaffuzi wa Samaji Tibb, NIUM, Bangalore, India

4 Associate Professor, Jild wa Taz’iniyyat, NIUM, Bangalore, India


The process of embryogenesis has long fascinated scholars, both in ancient Unani medicine and modern science, as it holds the key to the formation and development of life. In Unani medicine, the understanding of embryogenesis is deeply rooted in the philosophy of life, emphasizing the importance of reproduction for species survival. This article delves into the Unani perspective on embryogenesis, highlighting the role of Manī (semen) and the interplay of Arkān (elements) in shaping the development of the embryo. 
Unani scholars have expounded on various aspects of embryogenesis, including the formation of essential organs, sex differentiation, and the roles of Quwwat tanasuliyya (reproductive faculty) in Manī production and fertilization. They also described a holistic view of embryonic development, from the formation of the Zubda (zygote) to the differentiation of vital organs, aligning with some principles in modern embryology.
This article explores striking similarities between Unani and modern scientific concepts of embryogenesis, such as gastrulation, umbilical vessels, and sex differentiation. Additionally, it discusses aspects like quickening, lactational amenorrhea, and foetal presentation, where Unani insights align with contemporary medical knowledge.
All the relevant literature on Unani medicine has been evaluated, assessed and analysed based on classical texts. Additionally, several papers in this regard were also searched using search engines, namely PubMed, Google Scholar, and ScienceDirect.
The evolution of embryology as a scientific discipline has seen significant transformations, progressing from its early rudimentary stages to a more evidence-driven approach. This shift towards empirical science becomes readily apparent when examining the historical trajectory of embryological development.


  1. Ahmad, P., and Ishtiyaque, S., 1982. Kulliyat-e-Asri. Vol. 1. Delhi: New public press. [in Urdu]
  2. Ahmed, S.I., 1980. Introduction to Al-Umūr Al-Tabiyyā. New Delhi: Saini Printers.
  3. Ansari, A.W., 2018. Tadabir-i-Tabiyat in Afa’l-i-Tanasuliyah. M.D. (Thesis) Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Bengaluru, India.
  4. Atkinson, M.E., 2013. Anatomy for dental students. USA: Oxford University Press.
  5. Avicenna, 2010. Al-Qānūn fi’l Tibb. Translated from Urdu by Gh. Ḥ. Kintūrī. Vol. 1. New Delhi: Idāra Kitāb al-Shifa.
  6. Belo, C., 2007. Chance and Determinism in Avicenna and Averroes. Boston: Brill.
  7. Bhandari, S., Raja, E.A., Shetty, A. and Bhattacharya, S., 2014. Maternal and perinatal consequences of antepartum haemorrhage of unknown origin. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 121(1), pp. 44-52.
  8. Bourne, G., 1962. The foetal membranes: A review of the anatomy of normal amnion and chorion and some aspects of their function. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 38(438), p. 193.
  9. Boylan, M., 1987. Aristotle on the Generation of Animals: A Philosophical Study. International Studies in Philosophy, 19(1), pp. 95-97.
  10. Bradley, M., Leonard, V. and Totelin, L. eds., 2021. Bodily fluids in antiquity. New York: Routledge.
  11. Breehl, L. and Caban, O., 2018. Physiology, puberty. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534827/ [Accessed 27 March 2023]
  12. Burton, G.J. and Jauniaux, E., 2018. Development of the human placenta and fetal heart: synergic or independent?. Frontiers in physiology, 9, p. 373.
  13. Chiga, M., Ohmori, T., Ohba, T., Katabuchi, H. and Nishinakamura, R., 2014. Preformed Wolffian duct regulates Mullerian duct elongation independently of canonical Wnt signaling or Lhx1 expression. Int J Dev Biol, 58, pp. 663-668.
  14. Cox, B.J., and Ralston, A., 2022. The amnion as a window into human pluripotency. Cell Stem Cell, 29(5), pp. 661-662.
  15. Ferreira, J.C., Borowski, D., Czuba, B., Cnota, W., Wloch, A., Sodowski, K., Wielgos, M. and Wegrzyn, P., 2015. The evolution of fetal presentation during pregnancy: a retrospective, descriptive cross-sectional study. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 94(6), pp. 660-663.
  16. Flemming, R., 2021. One-seed, two-seed, three-seed? Reassessing the fluid economy of ancient generation. In: M., Bradley, V., Leonard, L., Totelin, (eds.), Bodily Fluids in Antiquity. 1st ed. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 158-172.
  17. Gadelrab, S.S., 2011. Discourses on sex differences in medieval scholarly Islamic thought. Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences, 66(1), pp. 40-81.
  18. Gaffka, K., 2016. The effect of alternative labor positions versus the lithotomy position on birthing outcomes: An integrative literature review. Honors undergraduate thesis, bachelors in science in nursing, University of Central Florida, Florida.
  19. Ghimire, S., Mantziou, V., Moris, N. and Arias, A.M., 2021. Human gastrulation: The embryo and its models. Developmental biology, 474, pp. 100-108.
  20. Göttlicher, S. and Madjaric, J., 1985. The position of the human fetus during pregnancy and the probability of spontaneous rotation to the vertex position in primi and multiparae. Geburtshilfe und Frauenheilkunde, 45(8), pp. 534-538.
  21. Heil, J.R., and Bordoni, B., 2023. Embryology, Umbilical Cord. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557490/ [Accessed 17 April 2023]
  22. Hubal, I., 2005. Kitabul Mukhtarat Fil Tibb. Translated from Urdu by CCRUM. Vol. III. New Delhi: CCRUM. [in Urdu]
  23. Ibn Abbas, M.A., 2010. Kamil al-Ṣana al-Ṭibbiyya. Translated from Urdu by Gh. Ḥ. Kinturi. Vol. 1. New Delhi: Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine. Dept. of AYUSH, Ministry of H & FW, Govt. of India. [in Urdu]
  24. Itrat, M., and Haque, N., 2013. Concept of Aging in Unani Medicine. International Journal of Research in Ayurveda & Pharmacy, 4(3), pp. 459-462.
  25. Jurjani, A.H., 2010. Zakhira Khwarzam Shahi. 1st ed. New Delhi: Idara kitab-us-shifa.
  26. Kabiruddin, H.M., 2021. Ifada-i-Kabir. 2nd ed. New Delhi: CCRUM.
  27. Kirmani, B.N.A., 1935. Tarjuma wa Sharah Kulliyat-e-Nafisi. Vol. 1. Translated from Urdu by H.M. Kabiruddin. New Delhi, India: Daftarul Masih, Qarol Bagh.
  28. Konar, H., 2018. DC Dutta’s textbook of obstetrics. 9th ed. New Delhi, London, Panama: The Health Sciences Publisher.
  29. Makajeva, J., and Ashraf, M., 2021. Delivery, Face and Brow Presentation. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK567727/ [Accessed 9 January 2023]
  30. Malm, J., Hellman, J., Magnusson, H., Laurell, C.B. and Lilja, H., 1996. Isolation and characterization of the major gel proteins in human semen, semenogen I and semenogen II. European journal of biochemistry, 238(1), pp. 48-53.
  31. McKay, A.C., Odeluga, N., Jiang, J. and Sharma, S., 2018. Anatomy, abdomen and pelvis, seminal vesicle. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499854/ [Accessed 24 July 2023]
  32. Miki, T., Mitamura, K., Ross, M.A., Stolz, D.B. and Strom, S.C., 2007. Identification of stem cell marker-positive cells by immunofluorescence in term human amnion. Journal of Reproductive Immunology, 75(2), pp. 91-96.
  33. Morgan, T.H., 1910. Chromosomes and heredity. The American Naturalist, 44(524), pp. 449-496.
  34. Muhr, J., Arbor, T.C., Ackerman, K.M., 2020. Embryology, Gastrulation. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554394/ [Accessed 23 April 2023]
  35. Needham, J. and Hughes, A., 2015. A history of embryology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  36. Neville, M.C., Morton, J. and Umemura, S., 2001. Lactogenesis: the transition from pregnancy to lactation. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 48(1), pp. 35-52.
  37. Nott, J.P., Bonney, E.A., Pickering, J.D. and Simpson, N.A., 2016. The structure and function of the cervix during pregnancy. Translational Research in Anatomy, 2, pp. 1-7.
  38. Pillay, J. and Davis, T.J., 2022. Physiology, Lactation. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499981/ [Accessed 17 July 2023]
  39. Rabban Ṭabarī, A.Ḥ.A.S., 2002. Firdaws al-Ḥikma fi’l Ṭibb. Vol. II. Translated from Urdu by H. M. Anwar Shāh Sanbhalī. Deoband, India: Faisal Publications.
  40. Razi, A.B.Z., 2001. Al Hawi Fil Tib. Vol. IX. New Delhi: CCRUM.
  41. Riboldi, M. and Simon, C., 2009. Extraembryonic tissues as a source of stem cells. Gynecological Endocrinology, 25(6), pp. 351-355.
  42. Roe, S.A., 2003. Matter, life, and generation: Eighteenth-century embryology and the Haller-Wolff debate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  43. Rosenfield, R.L., Lipton, R.B. and Drum, M.L., 2009. Thelarche, pubarche, and menarche attainment in children with normal and elevated body mass index. Pediatrics, 123(1), pp. 84-88.
  44. Rubin, R.H., and Pfaff, D.W., eds., 2010. Hormone/behavior relations of clinical importance: endocrine systems interacting with brain and behavior. San Diego: Academic Press.
  45. Rushd, I., 1987. Kitabul Kulliyat. New Delhi: CCRUM. [in Urdu]
  46. Sadler, T.W., 1988. Langman’s medical embryology. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 81(1), p. 131.
  47. Shah, M.H., 2007. The General Principles of Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine. New Delhi: Idāra Kitāb al-Shifa.
  48. Solnica-Krezel, L., and Sepich, D.S., 2012. Gastrulation: making and shaping germ layers. Annual review of cell and developmental biology, 28, pp. 687-717.
  49. Stoddard, N., and Leslie, S.W., 2019. Histology, male urethra. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK542238/ [Accessed 1 May 2023]
  50. Temesváry, R., 1903. The Connection Between the Female Breasts and Genitals. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 3(6), pp. 511-525.
  51. Tipo, F.A., Khanam, B. and Khan, T.N., 2019. Exploratory Approach of Harārat Gharīziyya (Innate Heat) in Greek-o-Arab Medicine: A Review. International Journal of Recent Scientific Research, 10(3), pp. 31574-31577.
  52. Vekemans, M., 1997. Postpartum contraception: the lactational amenorrhea method. The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care, 2(2), pp. 105-111.
  53. Viner, R.M., Allen, N.B., and Patton, G.C., 2017. Puberty, developmental processes, and health interventions. Child and Teenager Health and Development, 8, p. 1841.
  54. Wilberding, J., 2016. Forms, souls, and embryos: neoplatonists on human reproduction. London: Routledge.
  55. Zhao, F. and Yao, H.H.C., 2019. A tale of two tracts: history, current advances, and future directions of research on sexual differentiation of reproductive tracts. Biology of Reproduction, 101(3), pp. 602-616.
  56. Zulkifle, M., and Khan, T.N., 2018. Organogenesis: Philosophy of Traditional Unani and Arab Medicine versus Modern Medicine. Medicine, 2, p. 9.