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Pregnancy Tests

Throughout history methods involving urine have been a popular way to test for pregnancy. Early ideas ranged from simply observing the color of a woman's urine to the notion that the urine of pregnant women contains special crystals or secretions. Indeed, pregnancy testing can be traced back to 1350 BCE in Ancient Egypt. A written document from the time describes a process in which a woman would urinate on wheat and barley seeds over several days and, depending on which plant grew, both the woman's pregnancy status and the sex of the fetus could be determined.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

The Aschheim-Zondek Test for Pregnancy

Throughout history many different methods have been devised for the early detection of pregnancy. From the time of the Ancient Egyptians, inspection of the urine has been a popular place to start. However, it was not until the discovery of hormones in the early twentieth century that the development of truly reliable pregnancy tests occurred. Prior to 1978, when the first home pregnancy tests became available in the United States, pregnancy testing was done in hospital laboratories using various methods, one of them being the Aschheim-Zondek, or A-Z test.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

The Guthrie Test for Early Diagnosis of Phenylketonuria

The Guthrie test, also called the PKU test, is a diagnostic tool to test infants for phenylketonuria a few days after birth. To administer the Guthrie test, doctors use Guthrie cards to collect capillary blood from an infant’s heel, and the cards are saved for later testing. Robert Guthrie invented the test in 1962 in Buffalo, New York. Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a congenital birth abnormality in which toxic levels of the amino acid phenylalanine build up in the blood, a process that affects the brains in untreated infants.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

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

Clinical Tests of Estrogen Injections on Women with Abnormal Menstrual Cycles During the Early 1920s by Jean Paul Pratt and Edgar Allen

In the early twentieth century US, Jean Paul Pratt and Edgar Allen conducted clinical experiments on women who had abnormal menstrual cycles. During the clinical tests, researchers injected the hormone estrogen into their patients to alleviate their menstrual ailments, which ranged from irregular cycles to natural menopause. The hormone estrogen plays a prominent role in the menstrual cycle by signaling the tissue lining the uterus (endometrium) to thicken in preparation for possible pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"Testing the Kin Selection Theory: Who Controls the Investments?" from The Ants (1990), by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson

In “Testing the Kin Selection Theory: Who Controls the Investments?” Bert Hölldobler and Edward Osborne Wilson discussed the predictive power of kin selection theory, a theory about the evolution of social behaviors. As part of Hölldobler's and Wilson's 1990 book titled The Ants, Hölldobler and Wilson compared predictions about the reproductive practices of ants to data about the reproductive practices of ants. They showed that the data generally supported the expected behaviors proposed by kin selection theory.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Robert Guthrie (1916–1995)

Robert Guthrie developed a method to test infants for phenylketonuria (PKU) in the United States during the twentieth century. PKU is an inherited condition that causes an amino acid called phenylalanine to build to toxic levels in the blood. Untreated, PKU causes mental disabilities. Before Guthrie’s test, physicians rarely tested infants for PKU and struggled to diagnosis it. Guthrie’s test enabled newborns to be quickly and cheaply screened at birth and then treated for PKU if necessary, preventing irreversible neurological damage.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) involves testing for specific genetic conditions prior to the implantation of an embryo in the uterine wall. This form of genetic screening has been made possible by the growth of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) technology, which allows for the early stages of development to occur in a laboratory dish rather than in vivo. The purpose of PGD is to identify what are considered to be abnormal embryos in order to select the most desirable embryos for implantation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Eugen Steinach (1861–1944)

Eugen Steinach researched sex hormones and their effects on mammals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe. He experimented on rats by removing their testicles and implanting them elsewhere in their bodies, and he found that the testes interstitial cells produce male sex hormones. He developed the Steinach Rejuvenation Procedure, which he claimed could rejuvenate men by increasing their production of sex hormones. Steinach’s work on female sex hormones and on ovarian extracts led to the development of the first standardized injectable estrogen.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Beadle and Tatum's 1941 Experiments with Neurospora Revealed that Genes Produce Enzymes

Object is a digital image that depicts four stages in Beadle and Tatum's Neurospora experiments. Each stage is depicted in a separate section, with different test tubes in each section.

This illustration shows George Beadle and Edward Tatum's experiments with Neurospora crassa that indicated that single genes produce single enzymes. The pair conducted the experiments at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Enzymes are types of proteins that can catalyze reactions inside cells, reactions that produce a number of things, including nutrients that the cell needs. Neurospora crassa is a species of mold that grows on bread.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Theories, Experiments

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

Gordon Watkins Douglas (1921-2000)

Gordon Watkins Douglas researched cervical cancer, breach delivery, and treatment of high blood pressure during pregnancy in the US during the twentieth century. He worked primarily at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York, New York. While at Bellevue, he worked with William E. Studdiford to develop treatments for women who contracted infections as a result of illegal abortions performed throughout the US in unsterile environments.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Dennis Lo (1963- )

Dennis Lo, also called Yuk Ming Dennis Lo, is a
professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong,
China. In 1997, Lo discovered fetal DNA in maternal
plasma, which is the liquid component of a pregnant woman's
blood. By 2002, Lo distinguished the DNA differences between pregnant women
and their fetuses, enabling scientists to identify fetal DNA in pregnant
women's blood. Lo used his discoveries to develop several
non-invasive and prenatal genetic tests, including tests for blood

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Studies of Thalidomide's Effects on Rodent Embryos from 1962-2008

Thalidomide is a sedative drug introduced to European markets on 1 October 1957 after extensive testing on rodent embryos to ensure its safety. Early laboratory tests in rodent populations showed that pregnant rodents could safely use it, so doctors prescribed Thalidomide to treat morning sickness in pregnant women. However, in humans Thalidomide interfered with embryonic and fetal development in ways not observed in rodent tests.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms, 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

Retinoids As Teratogens

Vitamin A (retinol) is an essential vitamin in the daily functioning of human beings that helps regulate cellular differentiation of epithelial tissue. Studies have shown that an excess of vitamin A can affect embryonic development and result in teratogenesis, or the production of birth defects in a developing embryo. Excess intake of vitamin A and retinoids by pregnant women often results malformations to fetuses' skulls, faces, limbs, eyes, central nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

George Nicholas Papanicolaou (1883–1962)

George Nicholas Papanicolaou developed the Pap test in the United States during the twentieth century. The Pap test is a diagnostic procedure used to test for cervical cancer in women. Papanicolaou’s work helped improve the reproductive health of women by providing an effective means of identifying precancerous cells and improving the likelihood of early treatment and survival of cervical cancer.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Diana W. Bianchi

Diana W. Bianchi studied the medical treatment of premature and newborn infants in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Bianchi helped develop non-invasive prenatal genetic tests that use cell-free fetal DNA found within maternal blood to diagnose genetic abnormalities of the fetus during pregnancy. The test provides a means to test fetuses for chromosomal and genetic abnormalities.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Chorionic Villus Sampling

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a test used for prenatal diagnosis. Safe to perform at an earlier stage in pregnancy than amniocentesis, CVS is another invasive prenatal diagnostic test that can be performed as early as ten weeks after the woman's last menstrual cycle. While this test does carry some risks, it is generally very effective at predicting heritable diseases during or soon after the embryonic stage of development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

US Regulatory Response to Thalidomide (1950-2000)

Thalidomide, a drug capable of causing fetal abnormalities (teratogen), has caused greater than ten thousand birth defects worldwide since its introduction to the market as a pharmaceutical agent. Prior to discovering thalidomide's teratogenic effects in the early 1960s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not place regulations on drug approval or monitoring as it later did. By 1962, approximately 20,000 patients in the US had taken thalidomide as part of an unregulated clinical trial before any actions were taken to stop thalidomide's distribution.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Ferguson v. City of Charleston (2001)

The US Supreme Court case Ferguson v. City of Charleston (2001) established that public hospitals couldn't legally drug test pregnant women without their consent when those women sought prenatal care at those hospitals. The court held that such searches violated the pregnant women's protections under the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. The decisions also indicated those circumstances that qualified as special needs exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, and it highlighted the extent to which pregnant women are sovereign individuals in the eyes of the Court. Ferguson v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

"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

US Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program

In 1996, the US Congress mandated that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) create and regulate the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. The program tests industrial and agricultural chemicals for hormonal impacts in humans and in wildlife that may disrupt organisms' endocrine systems. The endocrine system regulates the release of small amounts of chemical substances called hormones to keep the body functioning normally.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Legal, Ethics

Stafford Leak Warren (1896–1981)

Stafford Leak Warren studied nuclear medicine in the United States during the twentieth century. He used radiation to make images of the body for diagnosis or treatment and developed the mammogram, a breast imaging technique that uses low-energy X-rays to produce an image of breasts. Mammograms allow doctors to diagnose breast cancer in its early and most treatable stages.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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