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Methylmercury and Human Embryonic Development

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Max Ludwig Henning Delbruck (1906–1981)

Max Ludwig Henning Delbrick applied his knowledge of theoretical physics to biological systems such as bacterial viruses called bacteriophages, or phages, and gene replication during the twentieth century in Germany and the US. Delbrück demonstrated that bacteria undergo random genetic mutations to resist phage infections. Those findings linked bacterial genetics to the genetics of higher organisms. In the mid-twentieth century, Delbrück helped start the Phage Group and Phage Course in the US, which further organized phage research.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You (2015), by the British Broadcasting Corporation and The Open University

In 2015, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) partnered with The Open University to produce the three-part documentary series, Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You. Michael Mosley, a British television producer and journalist, hosts the documentary. Along with narrating animated scenes of a growing fetus in the womb, Mosley meets with individuals around the world who experienced mutations that can arise in the womb. Introduced over the course of the three episodes, several people share their personal stories of how their bodies did not develop correctly prior to birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Hybrids and Chimeras: A report on the findings of the consultation" by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in October, 2007

In 2007, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in London, UK, published Hybrids and Chimeras: A Report on the Findings of the Consultation, which summarized a public debate about research on, and suggested policy for, human animal chimeras. The HFEA formulated the report after conducting a series of surveys and debates from earlier in 2007. The HFEA issued a statement in September 2007, followed by an official report published on 1 October 2007. Their report on human-animal chimeras set a worldwide precedent for discussions of the ethical use of those embryos in labs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Legal, Outreach

“Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain: Epidemiological Evidence of the Relationship and Implications” (2005), by Arnaud Fauconnier and Charles Chapron

Arnaud Fauconnier and Charles Chapron published “Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain: Epidemiological Evidence of the Relationship and Implications,” henceforth “Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain,” in the journal Human Reproduction Update in 2005. In that article, the researchers studied the relationship between pelvic pain and endometriosis. Endometriosis is the growth of endometrium, or tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus, outside of the uterus. The authors review medical studies in order to determine how much evidence exists that endometriosis causes chronic pelvic pain symptoms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Zidovudine or azidothymidine

In 1964, Jerome Horwitz synthesized the drug zidovudine, commonly abbreviated ZDV, otherwise known as azidothymidine, or AZT, at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan. Horwitz and his colleagues originally developed zidovudine to treat cancers caused by retroviruses. In 1983, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine recipients Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier discovered a new retrovirus, the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Revive & Restore (2012– )

Revive and Restore is a California-based nonprofit that uses genetic engineering to help solve conservation problems, such as saving endangered species and increasing the biodiversity of ecosystems. To facilitate their solutions, Revive and Restore utilizes genetic engineering, which is the process of making changes to an organism’s DNA, or the set of instructions for how an organism develops and functions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Theories

Revive & Restore’s Woolly Mammoth Revival Project

In 2015, Revive & Restore launched the Woolly Mammoth Revival Project with a goal of engineering a creature with genes from the woolly mammoth and introducing it back into the tundra to combat climate change. Revive & Restore is a nonprofit in California that uses genome editing technologies to enhance conservation efforts in sometimes controversial ways.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Technologies, Organizations, Ethics

“Screening for Breast Cancer with Mammography” (2013), by Peter Gøtzsche and Karsten Jørgensen

Screening for Breast Cancer with Mammography is a Cochrane systematic review originally published by Peter Gøtzsche and Karsten Jørgensen in 2001 and updated multiple times by 2013. In the 2013 article, the authors discuss the reliability of the results from different clinical trials involving mammography and provide their conclusions about whether mammography screening is useful in preventing deaths from breast cancer.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Roger Wolcott Sperry (1913–1994)

Roger Wolcott Sperry
studied the function of the nervous system in the US during the
twentieth century. He studied split-brain patterns in cats and
humans that result from separating the two hemispheres of the
brain by cutting the corpus callosum, the bridge between the two
hemispheres of the brain. He found that separating the corpus
callosum the two hemispheres of the brain could not communicate
and they performed functions as if the other hemisphere did not

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Cornelia Isabella Bargmann (1961- )

Cornelia Isabella Bargmann studied the relationship between genes, neural circuits, and behavior in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the US. Bargmann’s research focused on how the sense of smell (olfaction) in the nematode word Caenorhabditis elegans. She provided a model to study how neural circuits develop and function in the human brain, as the genetic regulatory pathways are similar.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“Infant Survival After Cesarean Section for Trauma” (1996), by John A. Morris, Jr. et al.

In the May 1996 edition of The Annals of Surgery, John A. Morris and his collaborators published “Infant Survival After Cesarean Section for Trauma,” in which they evaluate the use of emergency cesarean sections for the treatment of pregnant trauma patients. During a cesarean section, a physician removes a fetus from a pregnant woman through an incision in her abdomen and uterus. When a pregnant woman experiences trauma, physicians can perform an emergency cesarean section to remove the fetus and administer medical treatments that would not be possible while the woman is pregnant.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Mary-Claire King (1946– )

Mary-Claire King studied genetics in the US in the twenty-first century. King identified two genes associated with the occurrence of breast cancer, breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer 2 (BRCA2). King showed that mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes cause two types of reproductive cancer, breast and ovarian cancer. Because of King’s discovery, doctors can screen women for the inheritance of mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes to evaluate their risks for breast and ovarian cancer.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)

Virginia Apgar worked as an obstetrical anesthesiologist, administering drugs that reduce women’s pain during childbirth, in the US in the mid-twentieth century. In 1953, Apgar created a scoring system using five easily assessable measurements, including heart rate and breathing rate, to evaluate whether or not infants would benefit from medical attention immediately after birth. Apgar’s system showed that infants who were previously set aside as too sick to survive, despite low Apgar scores, could recover with immediate medical attention.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

William Withey Gull (1816-1890)

William Withey Gull studied paraplegia, anorexia, and hormones as a physician in England during the nineteenth century. In addition to caring for patients, he described the role of the posterior column of the spinal cord in paraplegia, and he was among the first to describe the conditions of anorexia and of hypochondria. He also researched the effects of thyroid hormone deficiencies in women who had malfunctioning thyroid glands.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Serial Cultivation of Human Diploid Cells in the Lab (1958–1961) by Leonard Hayflick and Paul S. Moorhead

From 1958 to 1961, Leonard Hayflick and Paul Moorhead in the US developed a way in the laboratory to cultivate strains of human cells with complete sets of chromosomes. Previously, scientists could not sustain cell cultures with cells that had two complete sets of chromosomes like normal human cells (diploid). As a result, scientists struggled to study human cell biology because there was not a reliable source of cells that represented diploid human cells. In their experiments, Hayflick and Moorhead created lasting strains of human cells that retained both complete sets of chromosomes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

Chernobyl Heart (2003)

In 2003, HBO Original Programming released the documentary Chernobyl Heart. Maryann De Leo directed and produced the film, which is about the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident and how the radiation from that accident has affected people living in the area. Side effects have included mental disabilities, physical disabilities, and genetic mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

“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

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

President George W. Bush's Announcement on Stem Cells, 9 August 2001

On 9 August 2001, US President George W. Bush gave an eleven-minute speech from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on the ethics and fate of federal funding for stem cell research. Bush also announced the creation of a special council to oversee stem cell research. In the speech President Bush acknowledged the importance of issues surrounding stem cell research to many Americans, presented different arguments in favor of and opposing embryonic stem cell research, and explained his decision to limit but not completely eliminate potential federal funding for embryonic stem cell (ESC) research.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

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

Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844)

Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, commonly known as Geoffroy, studied animals, their anatomy and their embryos, and teratogens at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Geoffroy also helped develop several specialized fields in the life sciences, including experimental embryology. In his efforts to experimentally demonstrate the theory of recapitulation, Geoffroy developed techniques to intervene in the growth of embryos to see whether they would develop into different kinds of organisms.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Seed Collection and Plant Genetic Diversity, 1900-1979

Farmers have long relied on genetic diversity to breed new crops, but in the early 1900s scientists began to study the importance of plant genetic diversity for agriculture. Scientists realized that seed crops could be systematically bred with their wild relatives to incorporate specific genetic traits or to produce hybrids for more productive crop yields.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex (1998), by Alice Domurat Dreger

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, by historian of science Alice Domurat Dreger, was published in 1998 by Harvard University Press. In the book, Dreger describes how many doctors and scientists treated human hermaphrodites from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. She states that during this time period, many physicians and scientists struggled to determine the nature sex, and to support a classification of sex as male or female, many physicians and scientists resorted to viewing a person's gonads for identification of his or her sex.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories, Disorders