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The Debate over DNA Replication Before the Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1953–1957)

Between 1953 and 1957, before the Meselson-Stahl experiment verified semi-conservative replication of DNA, scientists debated how DNA replicated. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick proposed that DNA was composed of two helical strands that wound together in a coil. Their model suggested a replication mechanism, later termed semi-conservative replication, in which parental DNA strands separated and served as templates for the replication of new daughter strands.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Meselson, Stahl, and the Replication of DNA: A History of "The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology" (2001), by Frederic Lawrence Holmes

In 2001, Yale University Press published Frederic Lawrence Holmes' book, Meselson, Stahl, and the Replication of DNA: A History of "The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology" (Replication of DNA), which chronicles the 1950s debate about how DNA replicates. That experiment verified that DNA replicates semi-conservatively as originally proposed by Watson and Crick. Rather than focusing solely on experiments and findings, Holmes's book presents the investigative processes of scientists studying DNA replication.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Matthew Stanley Meselson (1930– )

Matthew Stanley Meselson conducted DNA and RNA research in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He also influenced US policy regarding the use of chemical and biological weapons. Meselson and his colleague Franklin Stahl demonstrated that DNA replication is semi-conservative. Semi-conservative replication means that every newly replicated DNA double helix, which consists of two individual DNA strands wound together, contains one strand that was conserved from a parent double helix and that served as a template for the other strand.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

David Michael Rorvik (1944–)

David Michael Rorvik is a science journalist who publicized advancements in the field of reproductive medicine during the late twentieth century. Rorvik wrote magazine articles and books in which he discussed emerging methods and technologies that contributed to the progression of reproductive health, including sex determination, in vitro fertilization, and human cloning. During that time, those topics were controversial and researchers often questioned Rorvik’s work for accuracy.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the US

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is an artificially created hormone first synthesized in the late 1930s. Doctors widely prescribed DES first to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages, and later as an emergency contraceptive pill and to treat breast cancer. However, in 1971, physicians showed a link between DES and vaginal cancer during puberty in the children of women who had taken DES while pregnant. Consequently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned its use during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Technologies

Ian Wilmut (1944- )

British embryologist Sir Ian Wilmut, best known for his work in the field of animal genetic engineering and the successful cloning of sheep, was born 7 July 1944 in Hampton Lucy, England. The family later moved to Scarborough, in the north of the country, to allow his father to accept a teaching position. There Wilmut met Gordon Whalley, head of the biology department at Scarborough High School for Boys, which Wilmut attended.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Roger Wolcott Sperry (1913–1994)

Roger Wolcott Sperry studied the function of the nervous system in the US during the twentieth century. He studied split-brain patterns in cats and humans that result from separating the two hemispheres of the brain by cutting the corpus callosum, the bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain. He found that separating the corpus callosum the two hemispheres of the brain could not communicate and they performed functions as if the other hemisphere did not exist. Sperry studied optic nerve regeneration through which he developed the chemoaffinity hypothesis.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ziegler Wax Embryo Models

Three-dimensional anatomical models have long been essential to the learning of science and lend a sense of "control" to those practicing in the field. As the development of embryology grew in importance during the late 1800s, so did the need for models to show intricate details of embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

The Mustard Operation

The Mustard Operation is a surgical technique to correct a heart condition called the transposition of the great arteries (TGA). TGA is a birth defect in which the placement of the two arteries, the pulmonary artery, which supplies deoxygenated blood to the lungs, and the aorta, which takes oxygenated blood to the body are switched. William Thornton Mustard developed the operation later named for him and in 1963 operated on an infant with TGA, and ameliorated the condition, at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Disorders

The Y-Chromosome in Animals

The Y-chromosome is one of a pair of chromosomes that determine the genetic sex of individuals in mammals, some insects, and some plants. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the development of new microscopic and molecular techniques, including DNA sequencing, enabled scientists to confirm the hypothesis that chromosomes determine the sex of developing organisms. In an adult organism, the genes on the Y-chromosome help produce the male gamete, the sperm cell. Beginning in the 1980s, many studies of human populations used the Y-chromosome gene sequences to trace paternal lineages.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Theories

Transvaginal Ultrasound-Guided Oocyte Retrieval

Transvaginal ultrasound-guided oocyte retrieval, also known as egg retrieval, is a surgical technique used by medical professionals to extract mature eggs directly from the women’s ovaries under the guidance of ultrasound imaging. In 1982, physicians Suzan Lenz and Jorgen Lauritsen at the University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark, proposed the technology to improve the egg collection aspect of in vitro fertilization, or IVF. During IVF, a healthcare practitioner must remove mature eggs from a woman’s ovaries to fertilize them with sperm outside of the body.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Vaginal Speculum (after 1800)

A vaginal speculum is a medical device that allows physicians and health providers to better view a woman’s cervix and vagina during pelvic exams. Most specula are made of metal and plastic, and physicians insert a portion of the speculum into the patient’s vagina to separate the vaginal walls. Physicians have used devices to view inside a woman’s vagina for centuries, but physicians did not begin using what is known as a speculum in the twenty-first century until the 1800s.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Plan B: Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Plan B is a progestin-only emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) that can be taken within seventy-two hours of unprotected sex in order to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Plan B was created in response to the United States Food and Drug Administration's (US FDA) 1997 request for new drug applications (NDAs) for a dedicated ECP product, and was approved for sales in the US in 1999. Duramed, a subsidiary of Barr Pharmaceuticals, manufactures Plan B for The Women's Capital Corporation (WCC), which owns the patent for Plan B.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

“On the Influence of Abnormal Parturition, Difficult Labors, Premature Birth, and Asphyxia Neonatorum, on the Mental and Physical Condition of the Child, Especially in Relation to Deformities” (1861), by William John Little

In 1861, William John Little published, “On The Influence of Abnormal Parturition, Difficult Labors, Premature Birth, and Asphyxia Neonatorum, on the Mental and Physical Condition of the Child, Especially in Relation to Deformities,” hereafter “Abnormal Parturition,” in the Transactions of the Obstetrical Society of London. In the article, Little discussed the causes and types of what he refers to as abnormal births, and theorized how those births affect an infant’s likelihood of exhibiting a deformity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Publications

Francois Jacob (1920-2013)

Francois Jacob studied in
bacteria and bacteriophages at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France,
in the second half of the twentieth century. In 1965, Jacob won the
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Andre M. Lwoff and
Jacques L. Monod for their work on the genetic control of enzyme
synthesis. Jacob studied how genes control and regulate metabolic
enzymes in the bacterium Escherichia
coli (E. coli) and in lysogenic
bacterial systems. He contributed to theories of transcriptional gene

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“The Standardization of Terminology of Female Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction” (1996), Richard C. Bump, Anders Mattiasson, Kari Bø, Linda P. Brubaker, John O.L. DeLancey, Peter Klarskov, Bob L. Shull, Anthony R.B. Smith

In 1996, a team of researchers associated with the International Continence Society published “The Standardization of Terminology of Female Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction” in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Pelvic organ prolapse is characterized by the descent of the pelvic organs into the lower portion of the pelvis and is often caused by a weakening of the muscles and ligaments that normally hold the organs in place.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Disorders

“Levator Trauma is Associated with Pelvic Organ Prolapse” (2008), by Hans P. Dietz and Judy M. Simpson

Hans Peter Dietz and Judy Simpson published, “Levator Trauma is Associated with Pelvic Organ Prolapse,” in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2008. In their article, Dietz and Simpson estimated the risk of pelvic organ prolapse in women who attained injuries to the pelvic levator muscles. The levator muscles, also known as the levator ani, are a major muscle group that comprise the pelvic floor. Along with other muscles, the pelvic floor supports organs in a woman’s pelvis, such as the bladder, uterus, and rectum.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Disorders

Robert Lanza (1956- )

During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Robert Paul Lanza studied embryonic stem cells, tissues,
and endangered species as chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell
Technology, Incorporated in Worcester, Massachusetts. Lanza's team cloned
the endangered species of gaur Bos gaurus.
Although the gaur did not survive long, Lanza successfully cloned
another cow-like creature, called the banteng
(Bos
javanicus). Lanza also worked on cloning human embryos
to harvest stem cells, which could be used to treat dieases. While

Format: Articles

Subject: People

William Thomas Astbury (1898–1961)

William Thomas Astbury studied the structures of fibrous materials, including fabrics, proteins, and deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in England during the twentieth century. Astbury employed X-ray crystallography, a technique in which scientists use X-rays to learn about the molecular structures of materials. Astbury worked at a time when scientists had not yet identified DNA’s structure or function in genes, the genetic components responsible for how organisms develop and reproduce. He was one of the first scientists to use X-ray crystallography to study the structure of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“An Extended Family with a Dominantly Inherited Speech Disorder” (1990), by Jane A. Hurst et al.

In 1990, researcher Jane Hurst and her colleagues published “An Extended Family With a Dominantly Inherited Speech Disorder,” in which they proposed that a single gene was responsible for a language disorder across three generations of a family. Affected individuals of the family, called the KE family, had difficulty producing, expressing and comprehending speech. Hurst and her team studied the KE family and the disorder at the Department of Clinical Genetics at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Disorders

Wilhelm August Oscar Hertwig (1849-1922)

Wilhelm August Oscar Hertwig contributed to embryology through his studies of cells in development and his discovery that only one spermatozoon is necessary to fertilize an egg. He was born 21 April 1849 to Elise Trapp and Carl Hertwig in Hessen, Germany. After his brother Richard was born the family moved to Muhlhausen in Thuringen where the boys were educated. The two brothers later attended the university in Jena from 1868 to 1888 and studied under Ernst Haeckel, who later convinced Hertwig to leave chemistry and pursue medicine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"The Multi-Dimensional Human Embryo"

The Multi-Dimensional Human Embryo website (http://embryo.soad.umich.edu/) is a publicly accessible online database of the first three-dimensional images and animations of human embryos during different stages of development. Both the images and animations were created using magnetic resonance microscopy and compiled for easy access.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Organizations

“Improved Treatment for Cervical Cancer – Concurrent Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy” (1999), by Gillian Thomas

On 15 April 1999, physician Gillian Thomas published the editorial “Improved Treatment for Cervical Cancer – Concurrent Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy,” henceforth “Improved Treatment,” in The New England Journal of Medicine. In that editorial, she discusses the potential benefits of combining chemotherapy drugs with radiation to treat women with cervical cancer. At the time, healthcare professionals rarely treated cervical cancer by combining chemotherapy or radiation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering (MAGE)

Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering, or MAGE, is a genome editing technique that enables scientists to quickly edit an organism’s DNA to produce multiple changes across the genome. In 2009, two genetic researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, Harris Wang and George Church, developed the technology during a time when researchers could only edit one site in an organism’s genome at a time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Processes

"Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells" (2005), by Leon Kass and the President’s Council on Bioethics

Human pluripotent stem cells are valued for their potential to form numerous specialized cells and for their longevity. In the US, where a portion of the population is opposed to destruction of human embryos to obtain stem cells, what avenues are open to scientists for obtaining pluripotent cells that do not offend the moral sensibilities of a significant number of citizens?

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Ethics