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Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) involves testing for specific genetic conditions prior to the implantation of an embryo in the uterine wall. This form of genetic screening has been made possible by the growth of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) technology, which allows for the early stages of development to occur in a laboratory dish rather than in vivo. The purpose of PGD is to identify what are considered to be abnormal embryos in order to select the most desirable embryos for implantation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Chorionic Villus Sampling

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a test used for prenatal diagnosis. Safe to perform at an earlier stage in pregnancy than amniocentesis, CVS is another invasive prenatal diagnostic test that can be performed as early as ten weeks after the woman's last menstrual cycle. While this test does carry some risks, it is generally very effective at predicting heritable diseases during or soon after the embryonic stage of development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Robert Geoffrey Edwards's Study of in vitro Mammalian Oocyte Maturation, 1960 to 1965

In a series of experiments between 1960 and 1965, Robert Geoffrey Edwards discovered how to make mammalian egg cells, or oocytes, mature outside of a female's body. Edwards, working at several research institutions in the UK during this period, studied in vitro fertilization (IVF) methods. He measured the conditions and timings for in vitro (out of the body) maturation of oocytes from diverse mammals including mice, rats, hamsters, pigs, cows, sheep, and rhesus monkeys, as well as humans.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

40 Weeks (2014)

In 2014, Big Belli, a media and social networking brand, released a documentary called 40 Weeks online. The documentary, directed by Christopher Henze, followed multiple women during their pregnancies. The film predominantly features three women, though it includes the stories of many. Throughout the film, women detail their accounts of the physical and emotional changes that occur during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Bowen v. American Hospital Association (1986)

The 1986 US Supreme Court decision Bowen v. American Hospital Association rejected the federal government's use of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to intervene in a hospital's treatment for neonates born with severe congenital defects. This case set a precedent for the role of government involvement in cases where parents refused consent for care of disabled newborns.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, 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

Purkinje Cells

Purkinje cells, also called Purkinje neurons, are neurons in vertebrate animals located in the cerebellar cortex of the brain. Purkinje cell bodies are shaped like a flask and have many threadlike extensions called dendrites, which receive impulses from other neurons called granule cells. Each cell also has a single projection called an axon, which transmits impulses to the part of the brain that controls movement, the cerebellum. Purkinje cells are inhibitory neurons: they secrete neurotransmitters that bind to receptors that inhibit or reduce the firing of other neurons.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Amniocentesis Prior to 1980

The extraembryonic membranes that surround and originate from the embryos of vertebrates such as birds, reptiles, and mammals are crucial to their development. They are integral to increasing the surface area of the uterus, forming the chorion (which in turn produces the placenta) and the amnion, respectively. The amnion will ultimately surround the embryo in a fluid-filled amniotic cavity. This amniotic fluid, which cushions and protects the fetus and helps prevent the onset of labor, is sampled in amniocentesis to screen for genetic diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

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

"Presence of Fetal DNA in Maternal Plasma and Serum" (1997), by Dennis Lo, et al.

In the late 1990s researchers Yuk Ming Dennis Lo and his colleagues isolated fetal DNA extracted from pregnant woman’s blood. The technique enabled for more efficient and less invasive diagnoses of genetic abnormalities in fetuses, such as having too many copies of chromosomes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Robert Geoffrey Edwards's Study of Fertilization of Human Oocytes Matured in vitro, 1965 to 1969

Robert Geoffrey Edwards, a British developmental biologist at University of Cambridge, began exploring human in vitro fertilization (IVF) as a way to treat infertility in 1960. After successfully overcoming the problem of making mammalian oocytes mature in vitro in 1965, Edwards began to experiment with fertilizing matured eggs in vitro. Collaborating with other researchers, Edwards eventually fertilized a human egg in vitro in 1969. This was a huge step towards establishing human IVF as a viable fertility treatment.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

"Maternal Thyroid Deficiency During Pregnancy and Subsequent Neuropsychological Development of the Child" (1999), by James E. Haddow et al.

From 1987 to the late 1990s, James Haddow and his team of researchers at the Foundation for Blood Research in Scarborough, Maine, studied children born to women who had thyroid deficiencies while pregnant with those children. Haddow's team focused the study on newborns who had normal thyroid function at the time of neonatal screening. They tested the intelligence quotient, or IQ, of the children, ages eight to eleven years, and found that all of the children born to thyroid-hormone deficient mothers performed less well than the control group.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"Developmental Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans" (1993), by Theo Colborn, Frederick S. vom Saal, and Ana M. Soto

Developmental Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans, was published in 1993 in Environmental Health Perspectives. In the article, the authors present an account of two decades' worth of scientific research that describes the effects of certain pollutants on the health of wildlife, domestic animals, and humans, particularly when exposure takes place during embryonic growth. The term endocrine disruptor was coined in the article to describe the chemical pollutants that target the development and function of the endocrine system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Charles Robert Cantor (1942- )

Charles Robert Cantor helped sequence the human genome, and he developed methods to non-invasively determine the genes in human fetuses. Cantor worked in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His early research focused on oligonucleotides, small molecules of DNA or RNA. That research enabled the development of a technique that Cantor subsequently used to describe nucleotide sequences of DNA, a process called sequencing, in humans. Cantor was the principal scientist for the Human Genome Project, for which scientists sequenced the entirety of the human genome in 2003.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Social Implications of Non-Invasive Blood Tests to Determine the Sex of Fetuses

By 2011, researchers in the US had established that non-invasive blood tests can accurately determine the gender of a human fetus as early as seven weeks after fertilization. Experts predicted that this ability may encourage the use of prenatal sex screening tests by women interested to know the gender of their fetuses. As more people begin to use non-invasive blood tests that accurately determine the sex of the fetus at 7 weeks, many ethical questions pertaining to regulation, the consequences of gender-imbalanced societies, and altered meanings of the parent-child relationship.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Ethics, Legal

Neonatal Jaundice

Neonatal jaundice is the yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes due to elevated bilirubin levels in the bloodstream of a newborn. Bilirubin is a byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells. Jaundiced infants are unable to process bilirubin at a normal rate or they have an abnormally high amount of bilirubin in their bloodstream, resulting in a buildup of the yellow colored bilirubin. That build up is called hyperbilirubinemia and is the cause of jaundice.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

The Baby Doe Rules (1984)

The Baby Doe Rules represent the first attempt by the US government to directly intervene in treatment options for neonates born with congenital defects. The name of the rule comes from the controversial 1982 case of a Bloomington, Indiana infant Baby Doe, a name coined by the media. The Baby Doe Rules mandate that, as a requirement for federal funding, hospitals and physicians must provide maximal care to any impaired infant, unless select exceptions are met. If a physician or parent chooses to withhold full treatment when the exceptions are not met, they are liable for medical neglect.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Albert William Liley (1929–1983)

Albert William Liley advanced the science of fetal physiology and the techniques of life-saving in utero blood transfusions for fetuses with Rh incompatibility, also known as hemolytic disease. Due to his advances, fetuses too young to survive premature delivery, and likely to die in utero if their Rh incompabilities were left untreated, were successfully transfused and carried to term. Liley was as passionate as a clinician and researcher as he was about his views on the rights of the unborn.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Molecular Epigenetics and Development: Histone Conformations, DNA Methylation and Genomic Imprinting

Introduced by Conrad Hal Waddington in 1942, the concept of epigenetics gave scientists a new paradigm of thought concerning embryonic development, and since then has been widely applied, for instance to inheritable diseases, molecular technologies, and indeed the human genome as a whole. A genome contains an embedded intricate coding template that provides a means of genetic expression from the initial steps of embryonic development until the death of the organism. Within the genome there are two prominent components: coding (exons) and non-coding (introns) sequences.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Endoscopic Fetoscopy

Endoscopic fetoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed during pregnancy that allows physicians to view the fetus in-utero. Physicians use endoscopic fetoscopy to evaluate, diagnose, and treat fetal abnormalities. Physicians use an endoscope, or a thin, flexible surgical device with a light attached to its end, to perform endoscopic fetoscopy procedures. In 1954, Björn Westin performed the first endoscopic fetoscopy in Sweden.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Cocaine as a Teratogen

Cocaine use by pregnant women has a variety of effects on the embryo and fetus, ranging from various gastro-intestinal and cardiac defects to tissue death from insufficient blood supply. Thus, cocaine has been termed a teratogen, or an agent that causes defects in fetuses during prenatal development. Cocaine is one of the most commonly used drugs in the US and it has a history of both medical and illegal recreational use. It is a drug capable of a wide array of effects on physical and mental health.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Multi-Fetal Pregnancy

In humans, multi-fetal pregnancy occurs when a mother carries more than one fetus during the pregnancy. The most common multi-fetal pregnancy is twins, but mothers have given birth to up to eight children (octuplets) from a single pregnancy. Multiple fetusus can result from the release of multiple eggs or multiple ovulations, the splitting of a single fertilized egg, and fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) which involves the insertion of many fertilized eggs into the mother's uterus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Menstrual Tampon

Menstrual tampons are feminine hygiene devices, usually made of absorbent cotton, that are temporarily inserted into the vagina for absorbing a woman’s blood during menstruation. In 1931, Earl Haas invented the menstrual tampon most commonly used in the twenty-first century. Later, Gertrude Tendrich produced the first commercial tampon brand, Tampax, using Haas’s patented design. Tendrich and Haas’s tampon was made of tightly compacted absorbent cotton, shaped like a bullet, and had a string attached at the base that allowed for easy removal from the woman’s body.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Gene Transfer Strategy Used to Treat Tay - Sachs Disease (2005), by Sabata Martino’s Research Group

In the early 2000s, Sabata Martino and a team of researchers in Italy and Germany showed that they could reduce the symptoms of Tay-Sachs in afflicted mice by injecting them with a virus that infected their cells with a gene they lacked. Tay-Sachs disease is a fatal degenerative disorder that occurs in infants and causes rapid motor and mental impairment, leading to death at the ages of three to five. In gene therapy, researchers insert normal genes into cells that have missing or defective genes in order to correct genetic disorders.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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