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Thesis: From Monsters to Medicine: A Historical Analysis of Changes in the Field of Teratology Over the Twentieth Century

This project focuses on the history of how teratogens, or agents which have the potential to cause birth defects, have been understood and tested for teratogenic potential in the US over the twentieth century. Prior to this time, teratogen studies were primarily concerned with cataloguing defects rather than exploring possible causes. At the turn of the twentieth century, experimental teratogen studies with the aim of elucidating mechanisms commenced.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Disorders

“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

Anencephaly

Anencephaly is an open neural tube defect, meaning that part of the neural tube does not properly close or that it has reopened during early embryogenesis. An embryo with anencephaly develops without the top of the skull, but retains a partial skull, including the face. Anencephaly is one of the most common birth defects of the neural tube, occurring at a rate of approximately one in one thousand human pregnancies. The condition can be caused by environmental exposure to chemicals, dietary deficiencies, or genetic mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Agent Orange as a Cause of Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the spines of developing fetuses and infants, and research in the 20th century indicated that chemicals in the herbicide Agent Orange likely lead to the birth defect. People with spina bifida can have nerve damage, paralysis, and mental disabilities. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the US military employed Agent Orange and other herbicides to destroy enemy crops and forest cover until 1970.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Agent Orange Birth Defects

Sprayed extensively by the US military in Vietnam, Agent Orange contained a dioxin contaminant later found to be toxic to humans. Despite reports by Vietnamese citizens and Vietnam War veterans of increased rates of stillbirths and birth defects in their children, studies in the 1980s showed conflicting evidence for an association between the two. In 1996, the US National Academy of Sciences reported that there was evidence that suggested dioxin and Agent Orange exposure caused spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal cord develops improperly.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Developmental Timeline of Alcohol-Induced Birth Defects

Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) during pregnancy can result in a continuum of embryonic developmental abnormalities that vary depending on the severity, duration, and frequency of exposure of ethanol during gestation. Alcohol is a teratogen, an environmental agent that impacts the normal development of an embryo or fetus. In addition to dose-related concerns, factors such as maternal genetics and metabolism and the timing of alcohol exposure during prenatal development also impact alcohol-related birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Fetal Surgery

Fetal surgeries are a range of medical interventions performed in utero on the developing fetus of a pregnant woman to treat a number of congenital abnormalities. The first documented fetal surgical procedure occurred in 1963 in Auckland, New Zealand when A. William Liley treated fetal hemolytic anemia, or Rh disease, with a blood transfusion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Ethics, Reproduction

Isotretinoin (Accutane) as a Teratogen

Isotretinoin is a molecule and a byproduct (metabolite) of vitamin A, and in greater than normal amounts in pregnant women, it can cause fetal abnormalities including cleft lips, ear and eye defects, and mental retardation. Isotretinoin is commonly called by its trade name Accutane, and it's a chemical compound derived from vitamin A, or retinoic acid. Doctors prescribe isotretinoin to treat severe acne. For pregnant women, too much vitamin A or isotretinoin can also cause greater than normal rates of stillbirths and fetal disintegrations after the ninth week of gestation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a medical condition that involves abnormal growths of tissue resembling the endometrium, which is the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. Those growths, called endometrial lesions, typically form outside the uterus, but can spread to other reproductive organs such as ovaries and fallopian tubes. Endometrial lesions swell and bleed during menstruation, which can cause painful and heavy menstruation, as well as infertility.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction, Theories

Tay-Sachs Disease

In 1881 British opthalmologist Warren Tay made an unusual observation. He reported a cherry-red spot on the retina of a one-year-old patient, a patient who was also showing signs of progressive degeneration of the central nervous system as manifested in the child's physical and mental retardation. This cherry-red spot is a characteristic that would eventually come to be associated with metabolic neurological disorders like Sandhoff, GM-1, Niemann-Pick, and, to the credit of Tay, the lysosomal storage disorder known as Tay-Sachs disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a medical condition that causes blood sugar levels to become abnormally high, which manifests for the first-time during pregnancy and typically disappears immediately after birth for around ninety percent of affected women. While many women with the condition do not experience any noticeable symptoms, some may experience increased thirst and urination.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

“Annual Research Review: Prenatal Stress and the Origins of Psychopathology: An Evolutionary Perspective” (2011), by Vivette Glover

In 2011, fetal researcher Vivette Glover published “Annual Research Review: Prenatal Stress and the Origins of Psychopathology: An Evolutionary Perspective,” hereafter, “Prenatal Stress and the Origins of Psychopathology,” in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. In that article, Glover explained how an evolutionary perspective may be useful in understanding the effects of fetal programming. Fetal programming is a hypothesis that attempts to explain how factors during pregnancy can affect fetuses after birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Reproduction, Disorders

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Cardiac Development

A variety of developmental defects occur as a result of prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) in utero. In humans, those defects are collectively classified as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) representing the more severe defects. FAS is defined by pre- and post-natal growth retardation, minor facial abnormalities, and deficiencies in the central nervous system (CNS). In addition to those defects, prenatal exposure to alcohol impacts cardiogenesis, the developmental stage of heart formation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

“Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices of Health Personnel of Maternities in the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV...” (2018), by Elie Nkwabong, Romuald Meboulou Nguel, Nelly Kamgaing, and Anne Sylvie Keddi Jippe

In 2018, researchers Elie Nkwabong, Romuald Meboulou Nguel, Nelly Kamgaing, and Anne Sylvie Keddi Jippe published, “Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices of Health Personnel of Maternities in the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV in a sub-Saharan African Region with High Transmission Rate: Some Solutions Proposed,” in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction, Disorders

Amenorrhea as a Menstrual Disorder

Amenorrhea is considered a type of abnormal menstrual bleeding characterized by the unexpected absence of menstrual bleeding, lasting three months or longer. Menstrual bleeding typically happens approximately once a month when blood and endometrial tissue, or tissue lining the inside of the uterus, sheds from the uterus through the vagina. Menstruation is expected to stop with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause, or the natural cessation of the menstrual cycle at an older age.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Basal Ganglia Development

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) in human and animal models results in a range of alcohol-induced developmental defects. In humans, those collective birth defects are called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, with the most severe manifestation being Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is defined by pre- and post-natal growth retardation, minor facial abnormalities, and deficiencies in the central nervous system (CNS). The basal ganglia, one of the central nervous system components, are affected by exposure to ethanol during development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1805-1861)

Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire studied anatomy and congenital abnormalities in humans and other animals in nineteenth century France. Under the tutelage of his father, Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Isidore compiled and built on his father's studies of individuals with developmental malformations, then called monstrosities.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Disorders

Dysmenorrhea as a Menstrual Disorder

Dysmenorrhea refers to painful menstrual bleeding and often includes symptoms such as cramps in the lower abdominal region, pain radiating down to the thighs, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and headaches. There are two types of dysmenorrhea, called primary and secondary dysmenorrhea, which develop in different ways. In cases of primary dysmenorrhea, people experience painful cramps before and during most of their menstrual cycles, which does not happen as a result of a different underlying condition and is mostly due to hormone imbalances.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Theories

William John Little (1810–1894)

William John Little was one of the first orthopedic surgeons to research congenital malformations and their causes in the nineteenth century and presented preliminary research on a condition modernly known as cerebral palsy, a condition of varying severity that affects a person’s ability to move. Little worked throughout the United Kingdom for the majority of the time he practiced medicine, and eventually founded one of the first orthopedic infirmaries, the Royal Orthopedic Hospital in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Disorders

Smith v. Cote (1986)

The case of Smith v. Cote (1986) answered two important questions concerning law and childbirth: does the State of New Hampshire recognize a cause of action for what is defined as wrongful birth, and does the State recognize a cause of action for what is classified as wrongful life? In the case of Smith v. Cote, damages were permitted for wrongful birth, but not for the action of wrongful life.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Disorders

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

The concept Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) refers to a set of birth defects that occur in children born to mothers who abused alcohol during pregnancy. The alcohol-induced defects include pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies, minor facial abnormalities, and damage to the developing central nervous system (CNS).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Orchiopexy

Orchiopexy, also known as orchidopexy, is a surgical technique that can correct cryptorchidism and was successfully performed for one of the first times in 1877 in Scotland. Cryptorchidism, a condition where one or both of the testicles fail to descend before birth, is one of the most common male genital birth defects, affecting approximately 2 to 8 percent of full-term male infants, and around 33 percent of premature infants. Typically in the womb, male testes form within the abdomen, then descend into the scrotal area between twenty-five to thirty-five weeks’ gestation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Disorders, Reproduction

“Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus: Implications for Male Reproductive Function” (2007), by Ishola Agbaje, Deirdre Rogers, Carmel McVicar, Neil McClure, Albert Atkinson, Con Mallidis, and Sheena Lewis

In 2007, Ishola Agbaje, Deirdre Rogers, Carmel McVicar, Neil McClure, Albert Atkinson, Con Mallidis, and Sheena Lewis published “Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus: Implications for Male Reproductive Function,” hereby “Diabetes Mellitus: Implications,” in the journal Human Reproduction. In their article, the authors explore the effects of elevated blood sugar in the form of diabetes mellitus on the quality of male sperm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Disorders

Dandy-Walker Syndrome

Dandy-Walker Syndrome is a congenital brain defect in humans characterized by malformations to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement, and to the ventricles, the fluid-filled cavities that surround the cerebellum. The syndrome is named for physicians Walter Dandy and Arthur Walker who described associated signs and symptoms of the syndrome in the 1900s. The malformations often develop during embryonic stages.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)

Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) can occur in children whose mothers contracted the rubella virus, sometimes called German measles, during pregnancy. Depending on the gestational period when the mother contracts rubella, an infant born with CRS may be unaffected by the virus or it may have severe developmental defects. The most severe effects of the virus on fetal development occur when the mother contracts rubella between conception and the first trimester.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

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