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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

Robert Lanza (1956- )

During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Robert Paul Lanza studied embryonic stem cells, tissues,
and endangered species as chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell
Technology, Incorporated in Worcester, Massachusetts. Lanza's team cloned
the endangered species of gaur Bos gaurus.
Although the gaur did not survive long, Lanza successfully cloned
another cow-like creature, called the banteng
(Bos
javanicus). Lanza also worked on cloning human embryos
to harvest stem cells, which could be used to treat dieases. While

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Alfred Day Hershey (1908–1997)

During the twentieth century in the United States, Alfred Day Hershey studied phages, or viruses that infect bacteria, and experimentally verified that genes were made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Genes are molecular, heritable instructions for how an organism develops. When Hershey started to study phages, scientists did not know if phages contained genes, or whether genes were made of DNA or protein. In 1952, Hershey and his research assistant, Martha Chase, conducted phage experiments that convinced scientists that genes were made of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ethics of Fetal Surgery

Surgeons sometimes operate on the developing fetuses in utero of pregnant women as a medical intervention to treat a number of congential abnormalities, operations that have ethical aspects. A. William Liley performed the first successful fetal surgery, a blood transfusion, in New Zealand in 1963 to counteract the effects of hemolytic anemia, or Rh disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics

Vegas Baby (2016)

In 2016, Runaway Films released the documentary Vegas Baby. The film, directed by Amanda Micheli, follows three women who struggle with infertility problems as they undergo in vitro fertilization, or IVF treatment, to become pregnant. In IVF treatment, a woman’s egg is fertilized by a sperm outside of the woman’s body. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, a fertility doctor places the fertilized egg back into the woman’s uterus. The three women in the film enter the I Believe contest hosted by the Sher Institute of Reproductive Medicine in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

The Hershey-Chase Experiments (1952), by Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase

In 1951 and 1952, Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase conducted a series of experiments at the Carnegie Institute of Washington in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, that verified genes were made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Hershey and Chase performed their experiments, later named the Hershey-Chase experiments, on viruses that infect bacteria, also called bacteriophages. The experiments followed decades of scientists’ skepticism about whether genetic material was composed of protein or DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Vaginal Speculum (after 1800)

A vaginal speculum is a medical device that allows physicians and health providers to better view a woman’s cervix and vagina during pelvic exams. Most specula are made of metal and plastic, and physicians insert a portion of the speculum into the patient’s vagina to separate the vaginal walls. Physicians have used devices to view inside a woman’s vagina for centuries, but physicians did not begin using what is known as a speculum in the twenty-first century until the 1800s.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Strains 16 and 18

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) strains 16 and 18 are the two most common HPV strains that lead to cases of genital cancer. HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted disease, resulting in more than fourteen million cases per year in the United States alone. When left untreated, HPV leads to high risks of cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, and penile cancers. In 1983 and 1984 in Germany, physician Harald zur Hausen found that two HPV strains, HPV-16 and HPV-18, caused cervical cancer in women. In the early twenty first century, pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

United States v. Milan Vuitch (1971)

In the 1971 court case United States v. Milan Vuitch, hereafter US v. Vuitch, the US Supreme Court ruled that a Washington, DC law was constitutional by overturning a 1969 district court decision. Beginning in the early twentieth century, Washington, DC, prohibited abortions except for abortions performed to preserve the life or health of the pregnant woman. In 1969, Milan Vuitch, a physician in Washington, DC, was convicted of criminal abortion for providing an abortion when the woman’s life was not endangered.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Albert William Liley (1929–1983)

Albert William Liley advanced the science of fetal physiology and the techniques of life-saving in utero blood transfusions for fetuses with Rh incompatibility, also known as hemolytic disease. Due to his advances, fetuses too young to survive premature delivery, and likely to die in utero if their Rh incompabilities were left untreated, were successfully transfused and carried to term. Liley was as passionate as a clinician and researcher as he was about his views on the rights of the unborn.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

“Improved Treatment for Cervical Cancer – Concurrent Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy” (1999), by Gillian Thomas

On 15 April 1999, physician Gillian Thomas published the editorial “Improved Treatment for Cervical Cancer – Concurrent Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy,” henceforth “Improved Treatment,” in The New England Journal of Medicine. In that editorial, she discusses the potential benefits of combining chemotherapy drugs with radiation to treat women with cervical cancer. At the time, healthcare professionals rarely treated cervical cancer by combining chemotherapy or radiation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

“All-fours Maneuver for Reducing Shoulder Dystocia During Labor” (1999), by Joseph P. Bruner, Susan B. Drummond, Anna L. Meenan, and Ina May Gaskin

In 1999, Joseph Bruner, Susan B. Drummond, Anna L. Meenan, and Ina May Gaskin published, “All-fours Maneuver for Reducing Shoulder Dystocia During Labor,” in the medical journal, Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey. In the article, the authors described a birthing technique named the all-fours maneuver, or the Gaskin maneuver, and explained its effectiveness in treating fetal shoulder dystocia as compared to other maneuvers.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Processes

Doe v. Bolton (1973)

In the 1973 court case Doe v. Bolton, the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., ruled that a Georgia law regulating abortion was unconstitutional. The Georgia abortion law required women seeking abortions to get approval for the procedure from their personal physician, two consulting physicians, and from a committee at the admitting hospital. Furthermore, under the statutes, only women who had been raped, whose lives were in danger from the pregnancy, or who were carrying fetuses likely to be seriously, permanently malformed were permitted to receive abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

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

"Veterans and Agent Orange Update 1996: Summary and Research Highlights" by the US National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine

In March 1996, the National Academy of Sciences of the United States released 'Veterans and Agent Orange Update 1996: Summary and Research Highlights,' which summarized research on the health effects of Agent Orange and other herbicides used in the Vietnam War. In their 1996 report, the National Academy connects Agent Orange exposure with two health conditions: spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spinal cord develops improperly, and peripheral neuropathy, a nervous system condition in which the peripheral nerves are damaged.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Karl Oskar Illmensee (1939–)

Karl Oskar Illmensee studied the cloning and reproduction of fruit flies, mice, and humans in the US and Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Illmensee used nuclear transfer techniques (cloning) to create early mouse embryos from adult mouse cells, a technique biologists used in later decades to help explain how embryonic cells function during development. In the early 1980s, Illmensee faced accusations of fraud when others were unable to replicate the results of his experiments with cloned mouse embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, People

Maurice Ralph Hilleman (1919–2005)

Maurice Ralph Hilleman developed vaccines at the Merck Institute of Therapeutic Research in West Point, Pennsylvania, during the twentieth century. Over the course of his career at Merck, Hilleman created over forty vaccines, making him one of the most prolific developers of vaccine in the twentieth century. Of the fourteen vaccines commonly given to children in the US by 2015, Hilleman was responsible for eight of them. Hilleman's most widely used vaccine was his measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Stanley Alan Plotkin (1932– )

Stanley Alan Plotkin developed vaccines in the United States during the mid to late twentieth century. Plotkin began his research career at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he studied the rubella virus. In pregnant women, the rubella virus caused congenital rubella syndrome in the fetus, which led to various malformations and birth defects. Using WI-38 cells, a line of cells that originated from tissues of aborted fetuses, Plotkin successfully created RA27/3, a weakened strain of the rubella virus, which he then used to develop a rubella vaccine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Health Status of Vietnam Veterans III. Reproductive Outcomes and Child Health" (1988), by the US Centers for Disease Control

In 1988, the US Centers for Disease Control published 'Health Status of Vietnam Veterans III. Reproductive Outcomes and Child Health,' which summarized part of the results of the Vietnam Experience Study commissioned by US Congress to assess the health of US Vietnam veterans. They published the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The most heavily used herbicide in the Vietnam, Agent Orange, had previously been found to contain a contaminant linked to birth defects in rats.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Arthur William Galston (1920–2008)

Arthur W. Galston studied plant hormones in the United States during the late-twentieth century. His dissertation on the flowering process of soybean plants led others to develop Agent Orange, the most widely employed herbicide during the Vietnam War, used to defoliate forests and eliminate enemy cover and food sources. Galston protested the spraying of those defoliants in Vietnam, as they could be harmful to humans, animals, and the environment.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Anthony Comstock (1844–1915)

Anthony Comstock was a US postal inspector and politician who advocated for the suppression of obscenity and vice throughout the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Comstock considered any sexually explicit material like pornography and literature related to birth control and abortion as obscene. In 1873, Comstock lobbied US Congress to pass an anti-obscenity law titled An Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use, also called the Comstock Act.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (1993)

In its 1993 decision Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the US Supreme Court established the Daubert Standard for evaluating the admissibility of scientific knowledge as evidence in US federal courts. When it began in trial court, the case addressed whether or not Bendectin, an anti-nausea medication taken during pregnancy, caused birth defects. However, after the trial court dismissed the case for lack of admissible evidence, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

In 2002, Miramax Entertainment released The Magdalene Sisters, a film that portrays an interpretation of the true events experienced by four young women who were forcibly placed into a Magdalene asylum in Dublin, Ireland, in 1964. Catholic nuns ran Magdalene asylums throughout the world, where they forced women whom society deemed sexually promiscuous to perform hard labor in their laundry facilities. The film portrays the experiences of four women, Margaret, Bernadette, Rose, and Crispina, as they experienced negative treatment from the nuns and sought escape.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Cocaine as a Teratogen

Cocaine use by pregnant women has a variety of effects on the embryo and fetus, ranging from various gastro-intestinal and cardiac defects to tissue death from insufficient blood supply. Thus, cocaine has been termed a teratogen, or an agent that causes defects in fetuses during prenatal development. Cocaine is one of the most commonly used drugs in the US and it has a history of both medical and illegal recreational use. It is a drug capable of a wide array of effects on physical and mental health.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders