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Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is located outside the nucleus in the liquid portion of the cell (cytoplasm) inside cellular organelles called Mitochondria. Mitochondria are located in all complex or eukaryotic cells, including plant, animal, fungi, and single celled protists, which contain their own mtDNA genome. In animals with a backbone, or vertebrates, mtDNA is a double stranded, circular molecule that forms a circular genome, which ranges in size from sixteen to eighteen kilo-base pairs, depending on species. Each mitochondrion in a cell can have multiple copies of the mtDNA genome.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation (1979-1984)

In the legal case In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation of the early 1980s, US military veterans of the Vietnam War sued the US chemical companies that had produced the herbicide Agent Orange, and those companies settled with US veterans out of court. Agent Orange contains dioxin, a chemical later shown to disrupt the hormone system of the body and to cause cancer. As veterans returned to the US from Vietnam, scientists further confirmed that exposure to Agent Orange caused a variety of cancers in veterans and developmental problems in the veterans' children.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

"'Doing the Month': Confinement and Convalescence of Chinese Women After Childbirth" (1978), by Barbara L.K. Pillsbury

In 1978 Social Science and Medicine published Barbara L.K. Pillsbury's article, 'Doing the Month': Confinement and Convalescence of Chinese Women After Childbirth, which summarized the results of Pillsbury's study on Chinese childbirth customs. Pillsbury, a professor of cultural anthropology at San Diego State University in San Diego, California, conducted over eighty interviews with people in Taiwan and China, including civilians, herbalists, and physicians over a four-month period in 1975.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Infant Mortality: Results of a Field Study in Johnstown, PA., Based on Births in One Calendar Year (1915), by Emma Duke

The book Infant Mortality: Results of a Field Study in Johnstown, PA., Based on Births in One Calendar Year (1915), written by Emma Duke, detailed one of the first infant mortality field studies conducted by the US Children's Bureau. In the study, Duke and her colleagues collected information about over one thousand infants in the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. They used that information, along with interviews conducted with the families of the infants, to identify factors that affected infant mortality rates in the community.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

"Veterans and Agent Orange Update 1996: Summary and Research Highlights" by the US National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine

In March 1996, the National Academy of Sciences of the United States released 'Veterans and Agent Orange Update 1996: Summary and Research Highlights,' which summarized research on the health effects of Agent Orange and other herbicides used in the Vietnam War. In their 1996 report, the National Academy connects Agent Orange exposure with two health conditions: spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spinal cord develops improperly, and peripheral neuropathy, a nervous system condition in which the peripheral nerves are damaged.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Robert Geoffrey Edwards's Study of Fertilization of Human Oocytes Matured in vitro, 1965 to 1969

Robert Geoffrey Edwards, a British developmental biologist at University of Cambridge, began exploring human in vitro fertilization (IVF) as a way to treat infertility in 1960. After successfully overcoming the problem of making mammalian oocytes mature in vitro in 1965, Edwards began to experiment with fertilizing matured eggs in vitro. Collaborating with other researchers, Edwards eventually fertilized a human egg in vitro in 1969. This was a huge step towards establishing human IVF as a viable fertility treatment.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

"Developmental Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans" (1993), by Theo Colborn, Frederick S. vom Saal, and Ana M. Soto

Developmental Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans, was published in 1993 in Environmental Health Perspectives. In the article, the authors present an account of two decades' worth of scientific research that describes the effects of certain pollutants on the health of wildlife, domestic animals, and humans, particularly when exposure takes place during embryonic growth. The term endocrine disruptor was coined in the article to describe the chemical pollutants that target the development and function of the endocrine system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Hwang Woo-suk's Use of Human Eggs for Research 2002-2005

Hwang Woo-suk, a geneticist in South Korea, claimed in Science magazine in 2004 and 2005 that he and a team of researchers had for the first time cloned a human embryo and that they had derived eleven stem cell lines from it. Hwang was a professor at Seoul National University in Seoul, South Korea. In the Science articles, Hwang stated that all of the women who donated eggs to his laboratory were volunteers who donated their eggs (oocytes) without receiving any compensation in return. In 2006, Hwang admitted that many of the results were fabricated.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics, Reproduction

Social Implications of Non-Invasive Blood Tests to Determine the Sex of Fetuses

By 2011, researchers in the US had established that non-invasive blood tests can accurately determine the gender of a human fetus as early as seven weeks after fertilization. Experts predicted that this ability may encourage the use of prenatal sex screening tests by women interested to know the gender of their fetuses. As more people begin to use non-invasive blood tests that accurately determine the sex of the fetus at 7 weeks, many ethical questions pertaining to regulation, the consequences of gender-imbalanced societies, and altered meanings of the parent-child relationship.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Ethics, Legal

Charles Robert Cantor (1942- )

Charles Robert Cantor helped sequence the human genome, and he developed methods to non-invasively determine the genes in human fetuses. Cantor worked in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His early research focused on oligonucleotides, small molecules of DNA or RNA. That research enabled the development of a technique that Cantor subsequently used to describe nucleotide sequences of DNA, a process called sequencing, in humans. Cantor was the principal scientist for the Human Genome Project, for which scientists sequenced the entirety of the human genome in 2003.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

"Maternal Thyroid Deficiency During Pregnancy and Subsequent Neuropsychological Development of the Child" (1999), by James E. Haddow et al.

From 1987 to the late 1990s, James Haddow and his team of researchers at the Foundation for Blood Research in Scarborough, Maine, studied children born to women who had thyroid deficiencies while pregnant with those children. Haddow's team focused the study on newborns who had normal thyroid function at the time of neonatal screening. They tested the intelligence quotient, or IQ, of the children, ages eight to eleven years, and found that all of the children born to thyroid-hormone deficient mothers performed less well than the control group.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"Presence of Fetal DNA in Maternal Plasma and Serum" (1997), by Dennis Lo, et al.

In the late 1990s researchers Yuk Ming Dennis Lo and his colleagues isolated fetal DNA extracted from pregnant woman’s blood. The technique enabled for more efficient and less invasive diagnoses of genetic abnormalities in fetuses, such as having too many copies of chromosomes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Hypertensive Disorders in Pregnancy (1978), by Leon Chesley

Leon Chesley published Hypertensive Disorders in Pregnancy in 1978 to outline major and common complications that occur during pregnancy and manifest in abnormally high blood pressures in pregnant women. The book was published by Appleton-Century-Crofts in New York, New York. Chesley compiled his book as a tool for practicing obstetricians and teachers.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"The linear arrangement of six sex-linked factors in drosophila, as shown by their mode of association” (1913), by Alfred Henry Sturtevant

In 1913, Alfred Henry Sturtevant published the results of experiments in which he showed how genes are arranged along a chromosome. Sturtevant performed those experiments as an undergraduate at Columbia University, in New York, New York, under the guidance of Nobel laureate Thomas Hunt Morgan. Sturtevant studied heredity using Drosophila, the common fruit fly. In his experiments, Sturtevant determined the relative positions of six genetic factors on a fly’s chromosome by creating a process called gene mapping.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

Light Therapy for Neonatal Jaundice

Light therapy, also called phototherapy, exposes infants with jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes, to artificial or natural light to break down the buildup of bilirubin pigment in the blood. Bilirubin is an orange to red pigment produced when red blood cells break down, which causes infants to turn into a yellowish color. Small amounts of bilirubin in the blood are normal, but when there is an accumulation of excess bilirubin pigment, the body deposits the excess bilirubin in the layer of fat beneath the skin.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

The Baby Doe Rules (1984)

The Baby Doe Rules represent the first attempt by the US government to directly intervene in treatment options for neonates born with congenital defects. The name of the rule comes from the controversial 1982 case of a Bloomington, Indiana infant Baby Doe, a name coined by the media. The Baby Doe Rules mandate that, as a requirement for federal funding, hospitals and physicians must provide maximal care to any impaired infant, unless select exceptions are met. If a physician or parent chooses to withhold full treatment when the exceptions are not met, they are liable for medical neglect.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Ethics of Fetal Surgery

Surgeons sometimes operate on the developing fetuses in utero of pregnant women as a medical intervention to treat a number of congential abnormalities, operations that have ethical aspects. A. William Liley performed the first successful fetal surgery, a blood transfusion, in New Zealand in 1963 to counteract the effects of hemolytic anemia, or Rh disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: Science and Society

The Hedgehog Signaling Pathway in Vertebrates 

The hedgehog signaling pathway is a mechanism that regulates cell growth and differentiation during embryonic development, called embryogenesis, in animals. The hedgehog signaling pathway works both between cells and within individual cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex (1998), by Alice Domurat Dreger

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, by historian of science Alice Domurat Dreger, was published in 1998 by Harvard University Press. In the book, Dreger describes how many doctors and scientists treated human hermaphrodites from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. She states that during this time period, many physicians and scientists struggled to determine the nature sex, and to support a classification of sex as male or female, many physicians and scientists resorted to viewing a person's gonads for identification of his or her sex.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories, Disorders

Neonatal Jaundice

Neonatal jaundice is the yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes due to elevated bilirubin levels in the bloodstream of a newborn. Bilirubin is a byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells. Jaundiced infants are unable to process bilirubin at a normal rate or they have an abnormally high amount of bilirubin in their bloodstream, resulting in a buildup of the yellow colored bilirubin. That build up is called hyperbilirubinemia and is the cause of jaundice.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Josef Warkany (1902–1992)

Josef Warkany studied the environmental causes of birth defects in the United States in the twentieth century. Warkany was one of the first researchers to show that factors in the environment could cause birth defects, and he helped to develop guidelines for the field of teratology, the study of birth defects. Prior to Warkany’s work, scientists struggled to explain if or how environmental agents could cause birth defects. Warkany demonstrated that a deficiency or excess of vitamin A in maternal nutrition could cause birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Mary-Claire King (1946– )

Mary-Claire King studied genetics in the US in the twenty-first century. King identified two genes associated with the occurrence of breast cancer, breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer 2 (BRCA2). King showed that mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes cause two types of reproductive cancer, breast and ovarian cancer. Because of King’s discovery, doctors can screen women for the inheritance of mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes to evaluate their risks for breast and ovarian cancer.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Vietnam Veterans' Risks for Fathering Babies with Birth Defects" (1984), by J. David Erickson et al.

In 1984, J. David Erickson and his research team published the results of a study titled 'Vietnam Veterans' Risks for Fathering Babies with Birth Defects' that indicated that Vietnam veterans were at increased risk of fathering infants with serious congenital malformations, or birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Cocaine as a Teratogen

Cocaine use by pregnant women has a variety of effects on the embryo and fetus, ranging from various gastro-intestinal and cardiac defects to tissue death from insufficient blood supply. Thus, cocaine has been termed a teratogen, or an agent that causes defects in fetuses during prenatal development. Cocaine is one of the most commonly used drugs in the US and it has a history of both medical and illegal recreational use. It is a drug capable of a wide array of effects on physical and mental health.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Teratogens

Teratogens are substances that may produce physical or functional defects in the human embryo or fetus after the pregnant woman is exposed to the substance. Alcohol and cocaine are examples of such substances. Exposure to the teratogen affects the fetus or embryo in a variety of ways, such as the duration of exposure, the amount of teratogenic substance, and the stage of development the embryo or fetus is in during the exposure.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders