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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.
"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.
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.
Methylmercury (MeHg) is an organic form of mercury that can damage the developing brains of human fetuses. Women who consume methylmercury during pregnancy can bear children who have neurological issues because methylmercury has toxic effects on the nervous system during embryonic development. During the third week of gestation, the human nervous system begins to form in the embryo. During this gestational period, the embryo's nervous system is particularly susceptible to the influence of neurotoxins like methylmercury that can result in abnormalities.
The term Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was first published in 1973 in an article published in the British medical journal The Lancet. In that article, a group of pediatricians and psychiatrists at the University of Washington Medical School helped to define the morphological defects and developmental delays that can affect children born to alcoholic mothers. Those observations include pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies, minor facial abnormalities, and damage to the developing brain that can result in behavioral, learning, and cognitive abnormalities.