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Johannes Holtfreter (1901-1992)

Johannes Holtfreter made important discoveries about the properties of the organizer discovered by Hans Spemann. Although he spent much time away from the lab over many years, he was a productive researcher. His colleagues noted that the time he spent away helped revitalize his ideas. He is credited with the development of a balanced salt medium to allow embryos to develop; the discovery that dead organizer tissue retains inductive abilities; and the development of specification, competence, and distribution of fate maps in the developing frog embryo.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680)

Jan Swammerdam, known as the founder of the preformation theory based on his extensive research on insect development, was born on 12 February 1637 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Baertje Jans Corvers and Jan Jacobszoon Swammerdam. He began medical school on 11 October 1661 at the University of Leiden. A few of his classmates included Regnier de Graaf, Frederik Ruysch, Niels Stensen (Nicolaus Steno), and Robertus Padtbrugge. Padtbrugge would later join the East India Company and send Swammerdam exotic animals.

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

Ephraim McDowell (1771-1830)

Ephraim McDowell was an US abdominal surgeon who in 1809 performed one of the first successful ovarian surgeries. McDowell conducted his medical practice in Danville, Kentucky, where he used novel methods of ovariotomy to remove a twenty-two and a half pound ovarian tumor from his patient, Jane Crawford. At the time, surgeons performed ovariotomies by making an incision into each patient’s ovary to remove a mass. However, their patients often died from infection or blood loss.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Eugenical Sterilization in the United States (1922), by Harry H. Laughlin

Eugenical Sterilization in the United States is a 1922 book in which author Harry H. Laughlin argues for the necessity of compulsory sterilization in the United States based on the principles of eugenics. The eugenics movement of the early twentieth century in the US focused on altering the genetic makeup of the US population by regulating immigration and sterilization, and by discouraging interracial procreation, then called miscegenation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Legal, Ethics, Publications

Edgar Allen (1892–1943)

Edgar Allen identified and outlined the role of female sex hormones and discovered estrogen in the early 1900s in the US. In 1923, Allen, through his research with mice, isolated the primary ovarian hormone, later renamed estrogen, from ovarian follicles and tested its effect through injections in the uterine tissues of mice. Allen’s work on estrogen, enabled researchers to further study hormones and the endocrine system.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

2D Obstetric Ultrasound

The development of the obstetric ultrasound has allowed physicians and embryologists to obtain a clear picture of the developing human embryo and fetus during pregnancy. Obstetric ultrasonography, often referred to as ultrasound, is a technology that uses sound waves to produce images of structures inside the human body. A handheld probe emits sound waves, which are reflected back by the different structures within the body.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Sex-determining Region Y in Mammals

The Sex-determining Region Y (Sry in mammals but SRY in humans) is a gene found on Y chromosomes that leads to the development of male phenotypes, such as testes. The Sry gene, located on the short branch of the Y chromosome, initiates male embryonic development in the XY sex determination system. The Sry gene follows the central dogma of molecular biology; the DNA encoding the gene is transcribed into messenger RNA, which then produces a single Sry protein.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

“Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes Associated with a Trial of Labor after Prior Cesarean Delivery” (2004), Mark B. Landon et al.

In 2004 Mark Landon and his colleagues in the United States published “Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes Associated with a Trial of Labor after Prior Cesarean Delivery,” which compared the risks of vaginal delivery and cesarean section for delivery of a fetus after a previous cesarean delivery. During a cesarean section, a physician surgically removes a fetus from a pregnant woman through an incision in her abdomen. By the late 1900s, most clinical guidelines viewed attempting a vaginal birth after a previous cesarean delivery as a reasonable option for most women.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Images of Embryos in Life Magazine in the 1950s

Embryonic images displayed in Life magazine during the mid-twentieth century serve as a representation of technological advances and the growing public interest in the stages of embryological development. These black-and-white photographs portray skeletal structures and intact bodies of chicken embryos and human embryos and fetuses obtained from collections belonging to universities and medical institutions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Publications, Reproduction

Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is a test used for prenatal diagnosis of inherited diseases, Rh incompatibility, neural tube defects, and lung maturity. Normally performed during the second trimester of a pregnancy, this invasive procedure allows the detection of health problems in the fetus as early as fifteen weeks gestation. Although amniocentesis does carry some significant risks, the medical community commonly accepts it as a safe and useful procedure.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Hydrocephalus During Infancy

Hydrocephalus is a congenital or acquired disorder characterized by the abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the cavities of the brain, called ventricles. The accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid, the clear fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, causes an abnormal widening of the ventricles. The widening creates potentially harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain that can result in brain damage or death.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

“Kangaroo Care Is Effective in Diminishing Pain Response in Preterm Neonates” (2003), by Celeste Johnston, Bonnie Stevens, Janet Pinelli, Sharyn Gibbins, Francoise Filion, Anne Jack, Susan Steele, Kristina Boyer, and Annie Veilleux

In the 2003 article “Kangaroo Care Is Effective in Diminishing Pain Response in Preterm Neonates”, Celeste Johnston, Bonnie Stevens, Janet Pinelli, and their colleagues evaluate the effectiveness of the Kangaroo Mother Care position in decreasing the pain response of preterm infants who undergo a heel lance procedure for blood collection. Kangaroo Mother Care is a method of treatment for premature and low birth weight infants that involves exclusive breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her infant in what is called the kangaroo position.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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

Roman Catholic Church Quickening

Although the concept of quickening was not developed initially by the Roman Catholic Church, much of their histories are intertwined. Quickening, the point at which a pregnant woman can first feel the movements of the growing embryo or fetus, has long been a pivotal moment in pregnancy. Historically, it has also been a pivotal moment for law and the Church in deciding the criminal and religious sanctions for women who intentionally procured an abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion

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

Lydia Estes Pinkham (1819–1883)

Lydia Estes Pinkham invented and sold Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, a medicinal tonic used to treat menstrual discomfort and promote female reproductive health in general, in the US during the nineteenth century. Pinkham also founded Mrs. Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company, a business that sold natural remedies for women’s health issues. Throughout her life, Pinkham acted as an authority on female wellness, writing medical pamphlets about female anatomy and reproductive processes.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Congenital Club Foot in the Human Fetus" (1980), by Ernesto Ippolito and Ignacio Ponseti

In 1980, Ernesto Ippolito and Ignacio Ponseti published their results on a histological study they performed on congenital club foot in human fetuses. The researchers examined the feet of four aborted fetuses and compared the skeletal tissues from healthy feet to those affected by congenital club foot. Infants born with club foot are born with one or both feet rigidly twisted inwards and upwards, making typical movement painful and challenging.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

John Philip Trinkaus (1918-2003)

John Philip Trinkaus studied the processes of cell migration and gastrulation, especially in teleost fish, in the US during the twentieth century. Called Trink by his friends, his social confidence and work ethic combined to make him a prolific and decorated developmental biologist. His scientific contributions included investigations of several different aspects of embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

George Richard Tiller (1941-2009)

George Richard Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions in Wichita, Kansas, was shot to death on 31 May 2009 by Scott Roeder. As the director of one of only a small number of clinics in the US that performed legal late-term abortions, Tiller was a target for anti-abortion activists. Though Tiller lived and worked in Kansas, his work agitated anti-abortion groups and fueled the controversy surrounding abortion at a national level. Tiller's life and death fueled the abortion debate in the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Sidney Q. Cohlan (1915-1999)

Sidney Q. Cohlan studied birth defects in the US during the twentieth century. Cohlan helped to discover that if a pregnant woman ate too much vitamin A her fetus faced a higher than normal risk of teratogenic effects, such as cleft palate. A teratogen is a substance that causes malformation of a developing organism. Cohlan also identified the teratogenic effects of several other substances including a lack of normal magnesium and prenatal exposure to the antibiotic tetracycline.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Business of Being Born (2008)

In 2008, Barranca Productions released a documentary called The Business of Being Born, detailing the topic of childbirth. Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein produced and directed the documentary. The documentary explores pregnancy related healthcare in the US, including the history of midwives and obstetrics. The film also discusses potential consequences of medicalized childbirth common in the twenty-first century. The Business of Being Born provides viewers with information about home-births, midwives, and the positive and negative aspects of going to the hospital for childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Leonardo da Vinci's Embryological Annotations

Among his myriad scientific and artistic contributions, Leonardo da Vinci's work in embryology was groundbreaking. He observed and diagramed the previously undemonstrated position of the fetus in the womb with detailed accompanying annotations of his observations. Leonardo was highly paranoid of plagiarism and wrote all of his notes in mirror-like handwriting laden with his own codes, making his writing difficult to discern and delaying its impact.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Embryonic Sex Differentiation and Sex Hormones (1947), by Carl R. Moore

In 1947, Carl Richard Moore, a researcher at the University of Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois, wrote Embryonic Sex Differentiation and Sex Hormones, which was published in the same year as a first-edition monograph. In the book, Moore argues that regulation of sex differentiation in mammals is not controlled by sex hormones secreted by embryonic sex organs (gonads), but is controlled by non-hormonal genetic factors.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Experiments

Physician Labeling Rule (2006)

In 2006, the United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, published the “Requirements on Content and Format of Labeling for Human Prescription Drug and Biological Products,” also called the Physician Labeling Rule, to improve the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs and drug products. Within the Physician Labeling Rule, the FDA includes a section titled “Use in Specific Populations” or Section 8, which refers to drugs used by pregnant women, lactating women, and people of reproductive capacity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal