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Thesis: How Purported Scientific Failures Have Led to Advancements in IVF

This thesis shows us the history of how some of the first attempts at IVF in humans using various options such as donated egg cells and cryopreserved embryos, often ended in early miscarriages. At that time, most members of the scientific community and general public responded to those trials by regarding them as insignificant. In 1998, the success rate of women under the age of 38 having children with the use of IVF was 22.1%. Over time, scientists began to acknowledge those published findings that detailed various “failed” human IVF experiments.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Publications, Technologies, Experiments, Reproduction, Outreach

David H. Hubel and Torsten N. Wiesel’s Research on Optical Development in Kittens

During 1964, David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel studied the short and long term effects of depriving kittens of vision in one eye. In their experiments, Wiesel and Hubel used kittens as models for human children. Hubel and Wiesel researched whether the impairment of vision in one eye could be repaired or not and whether such impairments would impact vision later on in life. The researchers sewed one eye of a kitten shut for varying periods of time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Robert Geoffrey Edwards and Patrick Christopher Steptoe's Clinical Research in Human in vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer, 1969-1980

The biomedical accomplishment of human in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET) took years to become the successful technique that presently enables infertile couples to have their own children. In 1969, more than ten years after the first attempts to treat infertilities with IVF technologies, the British developmental biologist Robert Geoffrey Edwards fertilized human oocytes in a Petri dish for the first time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak's Telomere and Telomerase Experiments (1982-1989)

Experiments conducted by Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider, and Jack Szostak from 1982 to 1989 provided theories of how the ends of chromosomes, called telomeres, and the enzyme that repairs telomeres, called telomerase, worked. The experiments took place at the Sidney Farber Cancer Institute and at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and at the University of California in Berkeley, California. For their research on telomeres and telomerase, Blackburn, Greider, and Szostak received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Clinical Tests of Estrogen Injections on Women with Abnormal Menstrual Cycles During the Early 1920s by Jean Paul Pratt and Edgar Allen

In the early twentieth century US, Jean Paul Pratt and Edgar Allen conducted clinical experiments on women who had abnormal menstrual cycles. During the clinical tests, researchers injected the hormone estrogen into their patients to alleviate their menstrual ailments, which ranged from irregular cycles to natural menopause. The hormone estrogen plays a prominent role in the menstrual cycle by signaling the tissue lining the uterus (endometrium) to thicken in preparation for possible pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

"Maternal consumption of peanut during pregnancy is associated with peanut sensitization in atopic infants" (2010), by Scott Sicherer, et al.

In 2010, a team of US researchers concluded that the more peanuts a pregnant woman ate during her pregnancy, the more likely her newborn was to be sensitive to peanuts. They published their results in 2010's "Maternal consumption of peanut during pregnancy is associated with peanut sensitization in atopic infants." The work resulted from the collaboration of Scott Sicherer and Hugh Sampson, both from the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York, New York along with other colleagues.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson’s Experiments on the Freezing of Bull Spermatozoa (1950–1952)

In 1952, researchers Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson, who worked at the Animal Research Center in Cambridge, England, detailed several experiments on protocols for freezing bull semen for use in the artificial insemination of cows. Freezing sperm extends the life of a viable sperm sample and allows it to be used at later times, such as in artificial insemination. The researchers examined the effects of freezing conditions on bull sperm and how well they produce fertilized embryos once thawed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

James Edgar Till (1931– )

James Edgar Till is a biophysicist known for establishing the existence of stem cells along with Ernest McCulloch in 1963. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can shift, or differentiate, into specialized types of cells and serve as a repair system in the body by dividing indefinitely to replenish other cells. Till’s work with stem cells in bone marrow, which produces the body’s blood cells, helped form the field of modern hematology, a medical discipline that focuses on diseases related to the blood.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Experiments, Technologies

The China-US Study on the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects using Folic Acid (1999)

From 1993 to 1995 researchers led by Robert J. Berry from the US Centers for Disease Control headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and Zhu Li from Beijing Medical University in Beijing, China, conducted a collaborative study in China on the prevention of neural tube defects or NTDs using folic acid supplements. NTDs are birth defects in which openings in the spinal cord or the brain that occur during early development remain after birth. Neural-tube formation occurs in early pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant and therefore before she has begun taking prenatal vitamins.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"Transfer of Fetal Cells with Multilineage Potential to Maternal Tissue" (2004), by Kiarash Khosrotehrani et al.

In 2004, a team of researchers at Tufts-New England
Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, investigated the fetal
cells that remained in the maternal blood stream after pregnancy.
The results were published in Transfer of Fetal Cells with
Multilineage Potential to Maternal Tissue. The team working on that
research included Kiarash Khosrotehrani, Kirby L. Johnson, Dong
Hyun Cha, Robert N. Salomon, and Diana W. Bianchi. The researchers
reported that the fetal cells passed to a pregnant woman during

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

Leonard Colebrook’s Use of Sulfonamides as a Treatment for Puerperal Fever (1935–1937)

Between 1935 and 1937, Leonard Colebrook showed that sulfonamides, a class of antibacterial drugs, worked as an effective treatment for puerperal fever. Puerperal fever is a bacterial infection that can occur in the uterus of women after giving birth. At the time of Colebrook’s study, puerperal fever remained a common disease due to both the lack of hygienic practices in hospitals and a treatment for the disease. After successfully using Prontosil, a sulfanilamide, to cure a patient who was going to die from puerperal fever, Colebrook began experiments with the drug.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Treatment of Anemia during Pregnancy (1931), by Lucy Wills

In 1931, physician Lucy Wills conducted a study of nutritional deficiencies that caused anemia in pregnant women in Bombay, India, later renamed Mumbai. Anemia is a lack of healthy red blood cells in the blood. Wills published the results of her study in the medical article 'Treatment of ‘Pernicious Anaemia of Pregnancy' and 'Tropical Anaemia'' in the British Medical Journal in 1931. Wills's research contributed to knowledge of anemia and the possible causes associated with the disease, such as the symptoms of fatigue and irritability.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“Effect of Vaginal Sildenafil on the Outcome of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) After Multiple IVF Failures Attributed to Poor Endometrial Development” (2002), by Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch

Researchers Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch gave Viagra, also known as sildenafil, to women undergoing fertility treatment to test whether the medication could improve fertility and pregnancy rates. The researchers proposed that Viagra, typically indicated to treat erectile dysfunction in men, would help women with a history of failed past fertility treatments by thickening their endometrial lining, which is the layer of tissue in the uterus where an embryo implants during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction, Disorders

HeLa Cell Line

The HeLa cell line was the first immortal human cell line that George Otto Gey, Margaret Gey, and Mary Kucibek first isolated from Henrietta Lacks and developed at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951. An immortal human cell line is a cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the human from which they originated. Scientists use immortal human cell lines in their research to investigate how cells function in humans.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Experiments, People, Ethics

“Sex Limited Inheritance in Drosophila” (1910), by Thomas Hunt Morgan

In 1910, Thomas Hunt Morgan performed an experiment at Columbia University, in New York City, New York, that helped identify the role chromosomes play in heredity. That year, Morgan was breeding Drosophila, or fruit flies. After observing thousands of fruit fly offspring with red eyes, he obtained one that had white eyes. Morgan began breeding the white-eyed mutant fly and found that in one generation of flies, the trait was only present in males.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

"The Development of the Pronephros during the Embryonic and Early Larval Life of the Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)" (1932), by Rachel L. Carson

Rachel L. Carson studied biology at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and graduated in 1933 with an MA upon the completion of her thesis, The Development of the Pronephros during the Embryonic and Early Larval Life of the Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). The research that Carson conducted for this thesis project grounded many of the claims and observations she presented in her 1962 book, Silent Spring.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Experiments, Publications

The British Doctors’ Study (1951–2001)

From 1951 to 2001, researchers at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, conducted the British Doctors’ Study, a study that examined the smoking habits, disease rates, and mortality rates of physicians in Britain. Two epidemiologists, scientists who study occurrence and distribution of disease, Richard Doll and Austin Bradford Hill, initiated the study, and statistician Richard Peto joined the team in 1971. The objective of the study was to assess the risks associated with tobacco use, and its relationship to lung cancer.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Ginger as a Treatment for Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy by Teraporn Vutyavanich, Theerajana Kraisarin, and Rung-Aroon Ruangsri (1998–2001)

In 1998 and 1999, Teraporn Vutyavanich, Theerajana Kraisarin, and Rung-Aroon Ruangsri in Thailand showed that ginger alleviated nausea in pregnant women. Vutyavanich and his colleagues found that the group of pregnant women who took ginger capsules reported significantly fewer nausea symptoms and vomiting episodes than the group who only received the placebo. Vutyavanich and his team’s study at Chiang Mai University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was one of the earliest to investigate and support the use of ginger as an effective treatment for relieving pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

The Effects of Gene Regulation on Aging in Caenorhabditis elegans (2003)

In 2003, molecular biology and genetics researchers Coleen T. Murphy, Steven A. McCarroll, Cornelia I. Bargmann, Andrew Fraser, Ravi S. Kamath, Julie Ahringer, Hao Li, and Cynthia Kenyon conducted an experiment that investigated the cellular aging in, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) nematodes. The researchers investigated the interactions between the transcription factor DAF-16 and the genes that regulate the production of an insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1-like) protein related to the development, reproduction, and aging in C. elegans.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

China's First Baby Conceived through In Vitro Fertilization-Embryonic Transfer, by Zhang Lizhu's Research Team

On 10 March 1988, China's first baby conceived through human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET), commonly referred to as a test-tube baby, was born at the Peking Hospital (PUTH) in Beijing. This birth was reported in numerous media reports as a huge step forward in China's long march to keep pace with global advances in science and technology. Led by gynecologist Zhang Lizhu, the PUTH research team had devoted more than four years to the human IVF-ET project.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

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

HIP Randomized Breast Cancer Screening Trial (1963–1982)

From 1963 to 1982, researchers in New York City, New York, carried out a randomized trial of mammography screening. Mammography is the use of X-ray technology to find breast cancer at early stages. The private insurance company Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, or HIP, collaborated with researchers Sam Shapiro, Philip Strax, and Louis Venet on the trial. The researchers’ goal was to determine whether mammography screening reduced breast cancer mortality in women. The study included sixty thousand women aged forty to sixty-four.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Management of Myelomeningocele Study Clinical Trial (2003–2010)

From February 2003 to December 2010, researchers of the Management of Myelomeningocele Study, or MOMS, clinical trial compared the safety and efficacy of different treatments for a specific type of spina bifida, called myelomeningocele. Myelomeningocele, the most frequent and severe form of spina bifida, is a condition in which the bony spinal column does not develop correctly, which causes an opening of the spine, exposure of the spinal cord, and formation of a small sac containing cerebrospinal fluid.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"The Association between Depressive Symptoms and Social Support in Taiwanese Women During the Month" (2004), by Shu-Shya Heh et al.

In 2004, Shu-Shya Heh, Lindsey Coombes, and Helen Bartlett studied the association between Chinese postpartum (post-childbirth) practices and postpartum depression in Taiwanese women. The researchers surveyed Taiwanese women about the social support they received after giving birth and then evaluated the depression rates in the same women. Heh and her colleagues focused on the month following childbirth, which according to traditional Chinese medicine, is an important period that warrants a set of specialized practices to aid the woman's recovery.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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