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Reassessment of Carrel's Immortal Tissue Culture Experiments

In the 1910s, Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon and biologist, concluded that cells are intrinsically immortal. His claim was based on chick-heart tissue cultures in his laboratory that seemed to be able to proliferate forever. Carrel's ideas about cellular immortality convinced his many contemporaries that cells could be maintained indefinitely. In the 1960s, however, Carrel's thesis about cell immortality was put into question by the discovery that human diploid cells can only proliferate for a finite period.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Theories

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

Essay: Review of Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos

To Lynn M. Morgan, the Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology at Mt. Holyoke College, nothing says life more than a dead embryo. In her easily readable book, Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos, Morgan brings together cultural phenomena, ethics, and embryology to show that even dead embryos and fetuses have their own stories to tell. As an anthropologist, Morgan is interested in many things, including the science of embryology and its history. But she also wants to know how culture influences our views on embryos and the material practices that accompany their study.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Publications

Frank Rattray Lillie's Study of Freemartins (1914-1920)

Frank Rattray Lillie's research on freemartins from 1914 to 1920 in the US led to the theory that hormones partly caused for sex differentiation in mammals. Although sometimes applied to sheep, goats, and pigs, the term freemartin most often refers to a sterile cow that has external female genitalia and internal male gonads and was born with a normal male twin.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

John von Neumann (1903-1957)

John von Neumann was a Hungarian mathematician who made important contributions to mathematics, physics, computer science, and the area of artificial life. He was born in Budapest, Hungary, on 28 December 1903. His mother was Margit von Neumann and his father was Max von Neumann. His work on artificial life focused on the problem of the self-reproduction of machines. Von Neumann initially discussed self-reproducing machines in his Hixon Symposium paper "The General and Logical Theory of Automata" published in 1948.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012)

Rita Levi-Montalcini is a Nobel Laureate recognized for her work in the discovery and characterization of nerve growth factor. Nerve growth factor (NGF) promotes the growth and maintenance of the nervous system in a developing system. The majority of her career has been devoted to investigating the many aspects of NGF.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Viktor Hamburger's Study of Central-Peripheral Relations in the Development of Nervous System

An important question throughout the history of embryology is whether the formation of a biological structure is predetermined or shaped by its environment. If both intrinsic and environmental controls occur, how exactly do the two processes coordinate in crafting specific forms and functions? When Viktor Hamburger started his PhD study in embryology in the 1920s, few neuroembryologists were investigating how the central neurons innervate peripheral organs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“The History of Twins, As a Criterion of the Relative Powers of Nature and Nurture” (1875), by Francis Galton

In the article “The History of Twins, As a Criterion of the Relative Powers of Nature and Nurture,” Francis Galton describes his study of twins. Published in 1875 in Fraser’s Magazine in London, England, the article lays out Galton’s use of twins to examine and distinguish between the characteristics people have at birth and the characteristics they receive from the circumstances of life and experience. Galton calls those factors nature and nurture. Based on his study, Galton concluded that nature has a larger effect than nurture on development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Maurice Ralph Hilleman (1919–2005)

Maurice Ralph Hilleman developed vaccines at the Merck Institute of Therapeutic Research in West Point, Pennsylvania, during the twentieth century. Over the course of his career at Merck, Hilleman created over forty vaccines, making him one of the most prolific developers of vaccine in the twentieth century. Of the fourteen vaccines commonly given to children in the US by 2015, Hilleman was responsible for eight of them. Hilleman's most widely used vaccine was his measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“Diethylstilbestrol in the Prevention and Treatment of Complications of Pregnancy” (1948), by Olive Watkins Smith

In 1948, Olive Watkins Smith published 'Diethylstilbestrol in the Prevention and Treatment of Complications of Pregnancy' in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In 632 women treated with diethylstilbestrol, Smith demonstrated that the drug stimulated the production of progesterone, a hormone that regulates the uterine condition during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Mizuko Kuyo

Mizuko Kuyo is a Japanese Buddhist ceremony that focuses on a deceased fetus or stillborn child. This ceremony was originally developed to honor Jizo, a god believed to be responsible for transporting dead fetuses or children to the other world. The practice has become more popular in the last half century due to the growing number of abortions taking place and the particular views that Japanese Buddhists have about fetuses and abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion, Reproduction

Leonard Hayflick (1928- )

Leonard Hayflick studied the processes by which cells age during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the United States. In 1961 at the Wistar Institute in the US, Hayflick researched a phenomenon later called the Hayflick Limit, or the claim that normal human cells can only divide forty to sixty times before they cannot divide any further. Researchers later found that the cause of the Hayflick Limit is the shortening of telomeres, or portions of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that slowly degrade as cells replicate.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Norbert Freinkel (1926–1989)

During the twentieth century, Norbert Freinkel studied hormones and diabetes in the US. Freinkel conducted many experiments that enabled him to determine the factors that influence hormones of the thyroid gland to bind to proteins and to determine the effects that those thyroid hormones have on surrounding tissues. Furthermore, Freinkel researched gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that occurs for the first time during a women’s pregnancy. That type of diabetes is caused by a change in the way a woman’s body responds to insulin, a hormone made in the body.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Julia Barlow Platt (1857-1935)

Julia Barlow Platt studied neural crests in animal embryos and became involved in politics in the US during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She researched how body and head segments formed in chicks (Gallus gallus) and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias). Platt observed that in the mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), the coordinated migration of neural crest cells in the embryo produced parts of the nervous system, bones, and connective tissues in the head.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

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

"Human Toxoplasmosis: Occurrence in Infants as an Encephalomyelitis Verification of Transmission to Animals" (1939), by Abner Wolf et al.

In a series of experiments during mid 1930s, a team of researchers in New York helped establish that bacteria of the species Toxoplasma gondii can infect humans, and in infants can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that inflames brains, lungs, and hearts, and that can organisms that have it. The team included Abner Wolf, David Cowen, and Beryl Paige. They published the results of their experiment in Human Toxoplasmosis: Occurrence in Infants as an Encephalomyelitis Verification of Transmission to Animals.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction, Disorders

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

Catherine DeAngelis (1940– )

In the late-twentieth century in the United States, Catherine DeAngelis was a pediatric physician, researcher, and editor of multiple medical journals. During her time with the Journal of the American Medical Association, DeAngelis became the journal’s first female editor. At Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, she studied how physician-nurse interactions affected patient care, how immunizations and adolescent pregnancy affected children, and how medications affected men and women differently.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Richard Woltereck (1877-1944)

Richard Woltereck was a German zoologist and hydrobiologist who studied aquatic animals and extended the concept of Reaktionsnorm (norm of reaction) to the study of genetics. He also provided some of the first experimental evidence for the early twentieth-century embryological theory of heredity known as cytoplasmic inheritance. Through experiments on the water flea, Daphnia, Woltereck investigated whether variation produced by environmental impacts on development could play a role in heredity and evolution.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

“Traditional postpartum practices and rituals: a qualitative systematic review” (2007), by Cindy-Lee Dennis, Kenneth Fung, Sophie Grigoriadis, Gail Erlick Robinson, Sarah Romans and Lori Ross

In the 2007 paper “Traditional postpartum practices and rituals: a qualitative systematic review,” Toronto-based researchers showed that women from different cultures around the world follow similar postpartum practices after giving birth. At the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada, Cindy-Lee Dennis, Kenneth Fung, Sophie Grigoriadis, Gail Erlick Robinson, Sarah Romans, and Lori Ross examined fifty-one studies from over twenty countries that focused on traditional postpartum practices.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921-2011)

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow co-developed the radioimmunoassay (RIA), a method used to measure minute biological compounds that cause immune systems to produce antibodies. Yalow and research partner Solomon A. Berson developed the RIA in the early 1950s at the Bronx Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital, in New York City, New York. Yalow and Berson's methods expanded scientific research, particularly in the medical field, and contributed to medical diagnostics. For this achievement, Yalow received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1977.

Format: Articles

Subject: People