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Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is located outside the nucleus in the liquid portion of the cell (cytoplasm) inside cellular organelles called Mitochondria. Mitochondria are located in all complex or eukaryotic cells, including plant, animal, fungi, and single celled protists, which contain their own mtDNA genome. In animals with a backbone, or vertebrates, mtDNA is a double stranded, circular molecule that forms a circular genome, which ranges in size from sixteen to eighteen kilo-base pairs, depending on species. Each mitochondrion in a cell can have multiple copies of the mtDNA genome.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

John Hunter (1728–1793)

John Hunter studied human reproductive anatomy, and in eighteenth century England, performed one of the earliest described cases of artificial insemination. Hunter dissected thousands of animals and human cadavers to study the structures and functions of organ systems. Much of his anatomical studies focused on the circulatory, digestive, and reproductive systems. He helped to describe the exchange of blood between pregnant women and their fetuses. Hunter also housed various natural collections, as well as thousands of preserved specimens from greater than thirty years of anatomy work.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Possums (1952), by Carl G. Hartman

Possums is a 174-page book consisting of a series of essays written about the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), the only living marsupial in the US. The essays were written by Carl Gottfried Hartman, an embryologist at the Carnegie Institute of Washington (CIW), in Baltimore, Maryland, who also worked with another mammal, the rhesus monkey. Possums was published in 1952 by Hartman's alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Beginning in 1913, while as a graduate student, and later as an instructor at UT, Hartman captured and raised opossums.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

The Malthusian League (1877–1927)

The Malthusian League, founded in London, England, in 1877 promoted the use of contraception to limit family size. Activists Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant established the Malthusian League after they were arrested and exonerated for publishing a pamphlet describing techniques to prevent pregnancy. Founders based the league on the principles of Thomas Malthus, a British nineteenth century economist, who wrote on the perils of a population growing beyond the resources available to support it.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Outreach, Reproduction

The Human Genome Project (1990-2003)

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international scientific effort to sequence the entire human genome, that is, to produce a map of the base pairs of DNA in the human chromosomes, most of which do not vary among individuals. The HGP started in the US in 1990 as a public effort and included scientists and laboratories located in France, Germany, Japan, China, and the United Kingdom.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Ina May Gaskin (1940– )

Ina May Gaskin is a certified professional midwife, or CPM, in the US during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. She worked at the Farm Midwifery Center in Summertown, Tennessee, a center well known for its low rates of intervention, which contributed to low rates of maternal and fetal mortality. One technique Gaskin used when assisting women with delivery helped resolve a complication called shoulder dystocia, which is when a part of the infant’s body is delivered, but the rest of the body is stuck in the birth canal.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Edwin Stephen Goodrich (1868-1946)

Edwin Stephen Goodrich studied the structures of animals in England during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Goodrich studied how animals develop to identify their parts and to establish the evolutionary relationships between different species. Goodrich established that body structures can shift their positions relative to an organism's body during evolution, and he hypothesized that body structures can share ancestry (homology) between organisms of different species, even without identical body placement.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Comstock Law (1873)

The Comstock Law was a controversial law because it limited the reproductive rights of women and violated every person's right to privacy. This federal law was the beginning of a long fight over the reproductive rights of women which is still being waged. Reproductive rights are important to embryology because they lead to the discussions regarding the morality of abortion, contraceptives, and ultimately the moral status of the embryo.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound (1873-1906)

First marketed in the US 1875, Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was an herbal medicine used by women to relieve menstrual discomfort and menopausal symptoms in women. The herbal compound was invented by Lydia Estes Pinkham in 1873 in her home kitchen in Lynn, Massachusetts. Pinkham created the compound by mixing alcohol with roots and herbs. The compound was patented, packaged, and distributed by the Mrs. Lydia Pinkham Medicine Company in 1876. The Mrs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Paul Kammerer's Experiments on Salamanders (1903-1912)

In the early twentieth century, Paul Kammerer conducted a series of experiments to demonstrate that organisms could transmit characteristics acquired in their lifetimes to their offspring. In his 1809 publication, zoologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck had hypothesized that living beings can inherit features their parents or ancestors acquired throughout life. By breeding salamanders, as well as frogs and other organisms, Kammerer tested Lamarck's hypothesis in an attempt to provide evidence for Lamarck's theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Torsten Wiesel (1924– )

Torsten Nils Wiesel studied visual information processing and development in the US during the twentieth century. He performed multiple experiments on cats in which he sewed one of their eyes shut and monitored the response of the cat’s visual system after opening the sutured eye. For his work on visual processing, Wiesel received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1981 along with David Hubel and Roger Sperry.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Henrietta Lacks (1920–1951)

Henrietta Lacks, born Loretta Pleasant, had terminal cervical cancer in 1951, and was diagnosed at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where researchers collected and stored her cancer cells. Those cells went on to become the first immortal human cell line, which the researchers named HeLa. An immortal cell line is an atypical cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the organism from which they came, often due to a mutation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics

Ectopic Pregnancy

Many difficulties can arise with a pregnancy even after the sperm successfully fertilizes the oocyte. A major problem occurs if the fertilized egg tries to implant before reaching its normal implantation site, the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants anywhere other than in the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies cannot continue to term, so a physician must remove the developing embryo as early as possible.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Processes, Reproduction

John Spangler Nicholas (1895-1963)

John Spangler Nicholas, an American biologist, was born on 10 March 1895 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. He was the only child of Elizabeth Ellen Spangler, a teacher, and Samuel Trauger Nicholas, a Lutheran minister. Nicholas held myriad administrative positions throughout his life and his contributions to biology spanned several sub-disciplines, but his most notable accomplishments were in the field of embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Golden Rice

Golden Rice was engineered from normal rice by Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer in the 1990s to help improve human health. Golden Rice has an engineered multi-gene biochemical pathway in its genome. This pathway produces beta-carotene, a molecule that becomes vitamin A when metabolized by humans. Ingo Potrykus worked at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, and Peter Beyer worked at University of Freiburg, in Freiburg, Germany. The US Rockefeller Foundation supported their collaboration.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms, Legal

The Southern Gastric-Brooding Frog

The Southern Gastric-Brooding Frog (Rheobatrachus silus) was an aquatic frog that lived in south-east Australia. In 2002, the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List declared the frog extinct, although no wild specimens had been reported since 1981. As the common name alludes to, the R.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms

The Fruits of Philosophy (1832), by Charles Knowlton

In 1832, Charles Knowlton published The Fruits of Philosophy, a pamphlet advocating for controlling reproduction and detailing methods for preventing pregnancy. Originally published anonymously in Massachusetts, The Fruits of Philosophy was an illegal book because United States law prohibited the publishing of immoral and obscene material, which included information about contraception. In The Fruits of Philosophy, Knowlton detailed recipes for contraceptives and advocated for controlling reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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

Charles Raymond Greene (1901–1982)

Charles Raymond Greene studied hormones and the effects of environmental conditions such as high-altitude on physiology in the twentieth century in the United Kingdom. Green researched frostbite and altitude sickness during his mountaineering expeditions, helping to explain how extreme environmental conditions effect respiration. Greene’s research on hormones led to a collaboration with physician Katarina Dalton that culminated in the development of the theory that progesterone caused premenstrual syndrome, a theory that became the basis for later research on the condition.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

CRISPR Acquired Resistance Against Viruses (2007)

In 2007, Philippe Horvath and his colleagues explained how bacteria protect themselves against viruses at Danisco, a Danish food company, in Dangé-Saint-Romain, France. Horvath and his team worked to improve the lifespan of bacteria cultures for manufacturing yogurt and ice cream. Specifically, they focused on bacteria’s resistance to bacteriophages, or viruses that infect bacteria. Horvath and his colleagues found that the bacteria used to culture yogurt, Streptococcus thermophilus, has an adaptive immune system that can target specific viruses that have previously infected the bacteria.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

US Regulatory Response to Thalidomide (1950-2000)

Thalidomide, a drug capable of causing fetal abnormalities (teratogen), has caused greater than ten thousand birth defects worldwide since its introduction to the market as a pharmaceutical agent. Prior to discovering thalidomide's teratogenic effects in the early 1960s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not place regulations on drug approval or monitoring as it later did. By 1962, approximately 20,000 patients in the US had taken thalidomide as part of an unregulated clinical trial before any actions were taken to stop thalidomide's distribution.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

“Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus: Implications for Male Reproductive Function” (2007), by Ishola Agbaje, Deirdre Rogers, Carmel McVicar, Neil McClure, Albert Atkinson, Con Mallidis, and Sheena Lewis

In 2007, Ishola Agbaje, Deirdre Rogers, Carmel McVicar, Neil McClure, Albert Atkinson, Con Mallidis, and Sheena Lewis published “Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus: Implications for Male Reproductive Function,” hereby “Diabetes Mellitus: Implications,” in the journal Human Reproduction. In their article, the authors explore the effects of elevated blood sugar in the form of diabetes mellitus on the quality of male sperm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Disorders

Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972)

Prior to 1971, women had some difficulty obtaining contraceptive materials due to a law prohibiting the distribution of contraceptives by anyone other than a registered physician or registered pharmacist. This limited access to contraceptives had an impact on women's reproductive rights and it was the Supreme Court case Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) that helped bring the issue into the public spotlight. It demonstrated that women's bodies have reproductive as well as anatomical functions, and that the right to privacy extends to those reproductive functions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Study of Fossilized Massospondylus Dinosaur Embryos from South Africa (1978-2012)

In 1978, James Kitching discovered two dinosaur embryos in a road-cut talus at Roodraai (Red Bend) in Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa. Kitching assigned the fossilized embryos to the species of long necked herbivores Massospondylus carinatus (longer vertebra) from the Early Jurassic period, between 200 and 183 million years ago. The embryos were partially visible but surrounded by eggshell and rock, called matrix. Kitching said that the eggs were too delicate to remove from the matrix without damage.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Organisms

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