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Essay: Review of Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos
To Lynn M. Morgan, the Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology at Mt. Holyoke College, nothing says life more than a dead embryo. In her easily readable book, Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos, Morgan brings together cultural phenomena, ethics, and embryology to show that even dead embryos and fetuses have their own stories to tell. As an anthropologist, Morgan is interested in many things, including the science of embryology and its history. But she also wants to know how culture influences our views on embryos and the material practices that accompany their study.
Format: Essays and Theses
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)
In nineteenth century Great Britain, Thomas Henry Huxley proposed connections between the development of organisms and their evolutionary histories, critiqued previously held concepts of homology, and promoted Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Many called him Darwin's Bulldog. Huxley helped professionalize and redefine British science. He wrote about philosophy, religion, and social issues, and researched and theorized in many biological fields.
The US President's Council on Bioethics (2001-2009)
The US President's Council on Bioethics was an organization headquartered in Washington D.C. that was chartered to advise then US President George W. Bush on ethical issues related to biomedical science and technology. In November 2001, US President George W. Bush created the President's Council on Bioethics (PCB). Convened during a nationwide cloning and embryonic stem cell research debate, the Council stated that it worked to address arguments about ethics from many different perspectives.
Subject: Organizations, Legal, Ethics
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.
“Studies on the Chemical Nature of the Substance Inducing Transformation of Pneumococcal Types: Induction of Transformation by a Desoxyribonucleic Acid Fraction Isolated from Pneumococcus Type III” (1944) by Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty
In 1944, Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty published an article in which they concluded that genes, or molecules that dictate how organisms develop, are made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. The article is titled “Studies on the Chemical Nature of the Substance Inducing Transformation of Pneumococcal Types: Induction of Transformation by a Desoxyribonucleic Acid Fraction Isolated from Pneumococcus Type III,” hereafter “Transformation.” The authors isolated, purified, and characterized genes within bacteria and found evidence that those genes were made of DNA and not protein.
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.
“Prenatal Stress, Glucocorticoids and the Programming of the Brain” (2001), by Leonie Welberg and Jonathan Seckl
In 2001, researchers Leonie Welberg and Jonathan Seckl published the literature review “Prenatal Stress, Glucocorticoids, and the Programming of the Brain,” in which they report on the effects of prenatal stress on the development of the fetal brain. The fetus experiences prenatal stress while in the womb, or in utero. In discussing the effects of prenatal stress, the authors describe prenatal programming, which is when early environmental experiences permanently alter biological structure and function throughout life.
Subject: Publications, Theories
Bowen v. Kendrick (1988)
On 29 June 1988, in Bowen v. Kendrick, the US Supreme Court ruled in a five-to-four decision that the 1981 Adolescent Family Life Act, or AFLA, was constitutional. Under AFLA, the US government could distribute federal funding for abstinence-only sexual education programs, oftentimes given to groups with religious affiliations. As a federal taxpayer, Chan Kendrick challenged the constitutionality of AFLA, claiming it violated the separation of church and state.
Stanley Paul Leibo (1937–2014)
Stanley Paul Leibo studied the cryopreservation of embryos in the US in the twentieth century. Cryopreservation is a method of preserving biological material through freezing. Early in his career, Leibo collaborated with other scientists to study why cells were oftentimes injured during freezing. Later, Leibo and his team accomplished one of the first successful births using previously-frozen mammalian embryos.
Subject: People, Technologies
George McDonald Church (1954- )
George McDonald Church studied DNA from living and from extinct species in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Church helped to develop and refine techniques with which to describe the complete sequence of all the DNA nucleotides in an organism's genome, techniques such as multiplex sequencing, polony sequencing, and nanopore sequencing. Church also contributed to the Human Genome Project, and in 2005 he helped start a company, the Personal Genome Project. Church proposed to use DNA from extinct species to clone and breed new organisms from those species.
Subject: People, Technologies
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.
Subject: Theories, Technologies, Organizations, Ethics
Gardasil HPV Vaccination Series
In 2006, United States pharmaceutical company Merck released the Gardasil vaccination series, which protected recipients against four strains of Human Papillomaviruses, or HPV. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection which may be asymptomatic or cause symptoms such as genital warts, and is linked to cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, head, neck, and face cancers.
Frazer v. Schlegel (2007)
On 20 August 2007, in Frazer v. Schlegel, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided that researchers Ian Frazer and Jian Zhou owned the rights to the vaccine patent for Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, instead of a research team led by Richard Schlegel. Frazer v. Schlegel reversed the decision that the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences had previously made, awarding the patent to Schlegel on the basis that Frazer’s patent application contained inaccurate science.
Subject: Legal, Technologies
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.
Subject: Reproduction, Theories
George Otto Gey (1899-1970)
George Otto Gey was a scientist in the US who studied cells and cultivated the first continuous human cell line in 1951. Gey derived the cells for that cell line, called the HeLa cell line, from a woman called Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who had cervical cancer. Cell lines are a cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the organism from which they originated. Gey developed new techniques for in vitro, or laboratory-based, maintenance of organs and hormonal tissue, created new methods for cell cultivation, and researched nutritional media, or cell food.
Vasovasostomy is a microsurgical procedure to restore fertility after vasectomy, a surgery that sterilizes the patient by severing the vas deferentia, the tubes that carry the sperm from the testes to the penis. After a vasectomy, a patient may have various reasons for wanting to reverse the procedure, such as new opportunities for having children or a new romantic partnership. A vasovasostomy involves reestablishing the flow of sperm through the vas deferens by reconnecting the severed ends of the tube. In 1919, in the United States, William C.
Subject: Technologies, Reproduction
Pearl Luella Kendrick (1890–1980)
Pearl Luella Kendrick researched prevention for pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during the mid-1900s. Pertussis is a respiratory disease that mainly affects infants and young children. During the 1920s, pertussis was responsible for more deaths in children in the United States than any other disease. In the 1930s, Kendrick created one of the first pertussis vaccines that underwent large-scale clinical trials.
Subject: People, Publications, Processes
Biological Sex and Gender in the United States
In the United States, most people are assigned both a biological sex and gender at birth based on their chromosomes and reproductive organs. However, there is an important distinction between biological sex and gender. Biological sex, such as male, female, or intersex, commonly refers to physical characteristics. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, and actions people take on, usually in relation to expectations of masculinity or femininity. As of 2022, there is disagreement over the relation between sex and gender.
Subject: Organizations, People, Processes, Ethics
Margaret Higgins Sanger (1879-1966)
Margaret Higgins Sanger advocated for birth control in the United States and Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although people used contraceptives prior to the twentieth century, in the US the 1873 Comstock Act made the distribution of information relating to the use of contraceptives illegal, and similar state-level Comstock laws also classified discussion and dissemination of contraceptives as illegal.
Subject: People, Reproductive Health Arizona, Reproduction, Outreach
Agent Orange Birth Defects
Sprayed extensively by the US military in Vietnam, Agent Orange contained a dioxin contaminant later found to be toxic to humans. Despite reports by Vietnamese citizens and Vietnam War veterans of increased rates of stillbirths and birth defects in their children, studies in the 1980s showed conflicting evidence for an association between the two. In 1996, the US National Academy of Sciences reported that there was evidence that suggested dioxin and Agent Orange exposure caused spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal cord develops improperly.
Roe v. Wade (1973)
In the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court ruled that laws banning abortion violated the US Constitution. The Texas abortion laws, articles 1191–1194, and 1196 of the Texas penal code, made abortion illegal and criminalized those who performed or facilitated the procedure. Prior to Roe v. Wade, most states heavily regulated or banned abortions. The US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade secured women's rights to terminate pregnancies for any reasons within the first trimester of pregnancy.
Subject: Legal, Reproduction
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.
Subject: Technologies, Experiments, People, Ethics
Stuart v. Camnitz (2014)
In Stuart v. Camnitz, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of a North Carolina District Court that declared a controversial ultrasound mandate for abortions unconstitutional in 2014. The ultrasound mandate was a part of the Woman’s Right to Know Act introduced in North Carolina in 2011, which placed several restrictions on abortion care providers in the state.
World Health Organization Guidelines (Option A, B, and B+) for Antiretroviral Drugs to Treat Pregnant Women and Prevent HIV Infection in Infants
To address the international Human Immunodeficiency Virus epidemic, the World Health Organization, or WHO, developed three drug treatment regimens between 2010 and 2012 specifically for HIV-positive pregnant women and their infants. WHO developed the regimens, calling them Option A, Option B, and Option B+, to reduce or prevent mother-to-child, abbreviated MTC, transmission of HIV. Each option comprises of different types and schedules of antiretroviral medications. As of 2018, WHO reported that in Africa alone about 1,200,000 pregnant women were living with untreated HIV.
Subject: Reproduction, Processes, Disorders