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Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You (2015), by the British Broadcasting Corporation and The Open University

In 2015, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) partnered with The Open University to produce the three-part documentary series, Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You. Michael Mosley, a British television producer and journalist, hosts the documentary. Along with narrating animated scenes of a growing fetus in the womb, Mosley meets with individuals around the world who experienced mutations that can arise in the womb. Introduced over the course of the three episodes, several people share their personal stories of how their bodies did not develop correctly prior to birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

History of the Monash IVF Research Program from 1971 to 1989

In 1971, a group of researchers founded the Monash IVF Research Program with the mission to discover how in vitro fertilization, or IVF, techniques could become a treatment for infertility in both men and women. The program included researcher Carl Wood and colleagues John Leeton, Alex Lopata, Alan Trounson, and Ian Johnston at the Queen Victoria Medical Center and Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Since the program’s establishment in 1971, the Monash IVF Research Program has helped to develop and implement many IVF technologies still used in clinical practice as of 2020.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

Ernest John Christopher Polge (1926-2006)

Twentieth-century researcher Ernest John Christopher Polge studied the reproductive processes of livestock and determined a method to successfully freeze, thaw, and utilize viable sperm cells to produce offspring in animals. In 1949, Polge identified glycerol as a cryoprotectant, or a medium that enables cells to freeze without damaging their cellular components or functions. Several years later, Polge used glycerol in a freezing process called vitrification, which enabled him to freeze poultry sperm, thaw that sperm, and use it to fertilize vertebrate embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Bailey v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Virginia (1994)

In 1994, the Eastern Virginia District court case Bailey v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Virginia established that insurance companies could not deny coverage for experimental stem cell therapy treatments. The plaintiff, Mary Bailey, was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer and sought treatment involving high-dose chemotherapy and an advanced stem cell treatment, which was a novelty at the time. Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into several different types of cells in the body.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

“Revival of Spermatozoa after Dehydration and Vitrification at Low Temperatures” (1949), by Christopher Polge, Audrey Ursula Smith, and Alan Sterling Parkes

In the 1949 article “Revival of Spermatozoa after Dehydration and Vitrification at Low Temperatures,” researchers Christopher Polge, Audrey Ursula Smith, and Alan Sterling Parkes demonstrated that glycerol prevents cells from dying while being frozen. Polge and his colleagues discussed several procedures in which they had treated sperm cells from various species with glycerol, froze those cells, and then observed the physiological effects that freezing had on the treated sperm. The researchers concluded that glycerol safely preserves sperm samples from a variety of species.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"A Proposal for a New Method of Evaluation of the Newborn Infant" (1953), by Virginia Apgar

In 1953, Virginia Apgar published the article "A Proposal for a New Method for Evaluation of the Newborn Infant" about her method for scoring newborn infants directly after birth to assess their health and whether medical intervention was necessary. Apgar worked at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, New York, as an obstetrical anesthesiologist, a physician who administers pain medication during childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Effraenatam" (1588), by Pope Sixtus V

"Effraenatam," the brain-child of Pope Sixtus V, was released as a papal bull in the year 1588. Papal bulls are formal declarations issued by the pope of the Roman Catholic Church and are named for their authenticating leaden seals (bullas). This particular document became famous for its official forbiddance of all procured abortions. "Effraenatam," meaning "without restraint," is often regarded as a specific response to increasing rates of prostitution and procured abortions in the Papal States, though this is not discussed in the actual document.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion, Reproduction

"Declaration on Procured Abortion" (1974), by the Vatican

As various societies around the world began legalizing abortive procedures or liberalizing government stances on abortion, the Roman Catholic Church's leaders felt the need to respond to these changes by clarifying the Church's position on procured abortion. One incident in particular that may have inspired the "Declaration on Procured Abortion" is the landmark case in the United States Supreme Court in 1973: Roe v. Wade.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion, Reproduction

Matthew Howard Kaufman (1942–2013)

Matthew Kaufman was a professor of anatomy at the University of Edinburgh, in Edinburgh, UK, who specialized in mouse anatomy, development, and embryology during the late twentieth century. According to the The Herald, he was the first, alongside his colleague Martin Evans, to isolate and culture embryonic stem cells. Researchers initially called those cells Evans-Kaufman cells. In 1992, Kaufman published The Atlas of Mouse Development, a book that included photographs of mice development and mice organs over time.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818-1865)

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis demonstrated that the use of disinfectants could reduce the occurrence of puerperal fever in patients in nineteenth century Austria. Puerperal fever is a bacterial infection that can occur in the uterine tract of women after giving birth or undergoing an abortion. Semmelweis determined that puerperal fever is contagious and argued that the unhygienic practices of physicians, like examining patients after performing autopsies, caused the spread of puerperal fever.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Embryology

The Carnegie Institution of Washington's (CIW) Embryology Department was opened in 1914 and remains one of six departments in the CIW. The department quickly became, and remains, world renowned for its many embryonic development discoveries. In 1913 Franklin P. Mall, Professor of Anatomy at Johns Hopkins Medical School, applied for a Carnegie grant to support his research with human embryos. Mall had a collection of over 800 human embryo specimens and was at the point of wanting to do more than just collect.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

"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

Landrum Brewer Shettles (1909-2003)

Landrum Brewer Shettles is remembered as an important contributor to early in vitro fertilization research in the United States as well as a prolific author on the subject of choosing a child's sex before conception. Shettles was born in Pontotoc County, Mississippi on 21 November 1909 to Sue Mounce and Brazil Manly. Shettles trained and worked as a gynecologist at Columbia University Presbyterian Medical Center, after receiving his MD in 1943 from Johns Hopkins University.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test for Gestational Diabetes

In the twentieth century, researchers developed the oral glucose tolerance test, or OGTT, as a method to diagnose different types of diabetes, a medical condition that causes blood sugar levels to become abnormally high. During the test, a healthcare provider measures a person’s blood sugar levels before and after the person consumes a predetermined amount of glucose solution. While not exclusively used for pregnant women, an OGTT may test for gestational diabetes which, according to the International Diabetes Federation, affected one in six pregnancies worldwide in 2019.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction, Experiments

“Some of the Uses of Electricity in Gynecology,” (1901) by William Henry Walling

In 1901, physician William Henry Walling published the article, Some of the Uses of Electricity in Gynecology, in the January issue of the American Gynecological and Obstetrical Journal. Walling was a practicing gynecologist who studied electro-therapeutics, or the use of electricity in medicine for the treatment of disease, which was an emerging topic during the late 1800s. Walling stated that proper administration of electrical current to a woman’s vagina, uterus, bladder, or rectum could be therapeutic for gynecological diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Theories, Publications

Evaluation of the Newborn Infant--Second Report (1958), by Virginia Apgar et al.

Virginia Apgar and colleagues wrote “Evaluation of the Newborn Infant—Second Report” in 1958. This article explained that Apgar’s system for evaluating infants’ condition after birth accurately predicted the health of infants. Apgar had developed the scoring system in 1953 to provide a simple method for determining if an infant needed medical attention after birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Publications

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

“Pregnancy Established in an Infertile Patient After Transfer of a Donated Embryo Fertilized In Vitro” (1983), by Alan Trounson, John Leeton, Mandy Besanko, Carl Wood, and Angelo Conti

In 1983, researchers Alan Trounson, John Leeton, Carl Wood, Mandy Besanko, and Angelo Conti published the article “Pregnancy Established in an Infertile Patient After Transfer of a Donated Embryo Fertilized In Vitro” in The British Medical Journal. In the article, the authors discuss one of the first successful experiments using in vitro fertilization, or IVF, with the use of a human donor embryo at the Monash University and Queen Victoria Medical Center in Melbourne, Australia.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Publications, Reproduction, Processes

“General Considerations for the Clinical Evaluation of Drugs” (1977), by the United States Food and Drug Administration

The United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, published 'General Considerations for the Clinical Evaluation of Drugs,' in September 1977. The document defined acceptable practices for investigators who studied new drugs. Specifically, the document outlined the common clinical trial methods. Clinical trials are studies to test whether a new drug is safe before doctors can prescribe it to patients. Prior to 1977, the Protection of Human Subjects Rule primarily regulated clinical drug trials, but it did not specify who could and could not be included in clinical trials.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Leo Loeb (1869-1959)

Leo Loeb developed an experimental approach to studying cancer and pioneered techniques for tissue culture and in vitro tissue transplantation which impacted early-to-mid twentieth century experimental embryology. Loeb received his medical degree from the University of Zurich in 1897. As part of his doctorate, he completed a thesis on the outcomes of tissue transplantation in guinea pigs. Loeb's thesis inspired a life-long interest in tissue transplantation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

“The Emergence of Developmental Psychopathology” (1984), by Dante Cicchetti

In 1984, Dante Cicchetti published “The Emergence of Developmental Psychopathology,” an article in which he argued that the previously amorphous study of developmental psychopathology was emerging as a unified discipline. According to Cicchetti, developmental psychopathology describes an interdisciplinary field that studies abnormalities in psychological function that can arise during human development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Center for Reproductive Health (1986-1995)

The Center for Reproductive Health was a fertility clinic run by a partnership of world-renowned fertility specialists from 1986 to 1995. The Center operated at three clinic locations under affiliation with the University of California Irvine 's Medical Center (UCIMC). The Center's renowned specialists and medical success stories attracted clients worldwide until evidence of highly unethical practices conducted by doctors there resulted in over one hundred lawsuits against the University. At issue was the doctors' misappropriation and unauthorized use of eggs and embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

Hormone Releasing Intrauterine Devices

Hormone releasing intrauterine devices or hormonal IUDs are contraceptive devices placed in a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy by continuously releasing a low dose of certain hormones. Jouri Valter Tapani Luukkainen, a medical researcher at the University of Helsinki, introduced the first hormonal IUD in 1976. Luukkainen’s IUD was a plastic device shaped like a capital T.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

"Induction and Patterning of the Primitive Streak, an Organizing Center of Gastrulation in the Amniote" (2004), by Takashi Mikawa, Alisa M. Poh, Kristine A. Kelly, Yasuo Ishii, and David E. Reese

"Induction and Patterning of the Primitive Streak, an Organizing Center of Gastrulation in the Amniote," (hereafter referred to as "Induction") examines the mechanisms underlying early amniote gastrulation and the formation of the primitive streak and midline axis. The review, authored by Takashi Mikawa and colleagues at Cornell University Medical College, was published in Developmental Dynamics in 2004.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications