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Ethics of Designer Babies

A designer baby is a baby genetically engineered in vitro for specially selected traits, which can vary from lowered disease-risk to gender selection. Before the advent of genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization (IVF), designer babies were primarily a science fiction concept. However, the rapid advancement of technology before and after the turn of the twenty-first century makes designer babies an increasingly real possibility.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, Reproduction

Zhang Lizhu (1921- )

Zhang Lizhu is a Chinese gynecologist and researcher. For most of her career, she worked in the Peking Medical College Third Hospital, renamed in 2000, Peking University Third Hospital. There, she led a team of researchers and physicians in the study of human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET) technology. Zhang and her colleagues contributed to the birth of the first test-tube baby in Mainland China in 1988.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

The Discovery of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The term Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was first published in 1973 in an article published in the British medical journal The Lancet. In that article, a group of pediatricians and psychiatrists at the University of Washington Medical School helped to define the morphological defects and developmental delays that can affect children born to alcoholic mothers. Those observations include pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies, minor facial abnormalities, and damage to the developing brain that can result in behavioral, learning, and cognitive abnormalities.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Carl Gottfried Hartman (1879-1968)

Carl Gottfried Hartman researched the reproductive physiology of opossums and rhesus monkeys. He was the first to extensively study the embryology and physiology of reproduction in opossums when little was known about this mammal. Hartman worked in Texas where opossums, the only marsupial that lives in North America, were abundant. The female opossum delivers her fetal opossums in her pouch, where one can easily observe their development. After studying opossums for thirteen years, Hartman investigated the reproductive physiology of rhesus monkeys, also known as macaques.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Roslin Institute (1993- )

The Roslin Institute was established in 1993 in the village of Roslin, Scotland, as an independent research center by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and as of 2014 is part of the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland. Researchers at the Roslin Institute cloned the Dolly the sheep in 1996. According to the Roslin Institute, Dolly was the first mammal to develop into an adult from the transfer of the nucleus of an adult sheep cell into an ovum with the nucleus removed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Margaret Ann Bulkley (James Barry) (1789−1865)

Margaret Ann Bulkley, under the male pseudonym James Barry, was one of the first female obstetricians in early nineteenth century British Empire. She was the first person to perform a cesarean section in South Africa. Cesarean section is a procedure in which a doctor cuts into the uterus of a pregnant woman to retrieve the fetus during complicated births. Bulkley hid her gender and lived life as the male Barry to practice medicine, an opportunity not allowed to women at the time.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"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

Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells (UCBSC)

Umbilical cord blood (UCB) stem cells are hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) that are recovered from the blood of the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. Umbilical cord blood is rich in cells that express the CD34 molecule, a surface protein that identifies cells as stem cells. Prior to the discovery of UCB stem cells, it was standard procedure to discard the umbilical cord and placenta; now much effort is devoted to raising public awareness and to encouraging people to store or donate cord blood.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

“Miscarriage of Medicine: The Growth of Catholic Hospitals and the Threat to Reproductive Health Care” (2013), by Lois Uttley, Sheila Reynertson, Larraine Kenny, and Louise Melling

In 2013, Lois Uttley, Sheila Reynertson, Larraine Kenny, and Louise Melling published “Miscarriage of Medicine: The Growth of Catholic Hospitals and the Threat to Reproductive Health Care,” in which they analyzed the growth of Catholic hospitals in the United States from 2001 to 2011 and the impact those hospitals had on reproductive health care. In the US, Catholic hospitals are required to abide by the US Catholic Church's Ethical Guidelines for Health Care Providers, also called the Directives.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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

"Maternal consumption of peanut during pregnancy is associated with peanut sensitization in atopic infants" (2010), by Scott Sicherer, et al.

In 2010, a team of US researchers concluded that the more peanuts a pregnant woman ate during her pregnancy, the more likely her newborn was to be sensitive to peanuts. They published their results in 2010's "Maternal consumption of peanut during pregnancy is associated with peanut sensitization in atopic infants." The work resulted from the collaboration of Scott Sicherer and Hugh Sampson, both from the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York, New York along with other colleagues.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

Ian Donald (1910–1987)

Ian Donald was an obstetrician who developed the technology and therapy of ultrasound diagnostics during the twentieth century in Europe. Ultrasound is a medical diagnostic technique that uses sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. During the early 1900s, physicians had no way to see inside a woman’s uterus during pregnancy. Donald developed the first method of scanning human internal anatomy in real time, which enabled doctors to diagnose potentially fatal tumors and cysts.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

James Marion Sims (1813-1883)

James Marion Sims developed a surgical cure for ruptures of the wall separating the bladder from the vagina during labor, ruptures called vesico-vaginal fistulas, and he developed techniques and tools used to improve reproductive examinations and health care for women in the US during the nineteenth century. Sims's lateral examination position allowed doctors to better see the vaginal cavity, and his speculum, a spoon-like object used for increased view into the vagina, helped to make gynecological examinations more thorough.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Irving Freiler Stein Sr. (1887–1976)

Irving Freiler Stein Sr. was a physician who studied women’s reproductive health during the twentieth century in the United States. In partnership with his colleague, Michael Leventhal, Stein identified a women’s reproductive disorder related to elevated male sex hormones, or androgens. The syndrome was originally called Stein-Leventhal syndrome and later known as polycystic ovarian syndrome. While studying the syndrome, Stein also helped establish a treatment for the condition, through the surgical removal of ovarian tissues.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Embryology

The Carnegie Institution of Washington's (CIW) Embryology Department was opened in 1914 and remains one of six departments in the CIW. The department quickly became, and remains, world renowned for its many embryonic development discoveries. In 1913 Franklin P. Mall, Professor of Anatomy at Johns Hopkins Medical School, applied for a Carnegie grant to support his research with human embryos. Mall had a collection of over 800 human embryo specimens and was at the point of wanting to do more than just collect.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

China's First Baby Conceived through In Vitro Fertilization-Embryonic Transfer, by Zhang Lizhu's Research Team

On 10 March 1988, China's first baby conceived through human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET), commonly referred to as a test-tube baby, was born at the Peking Hospital (PUTH) in Beijing. This birth was reported in numerous media reports as a huge step forward in China's long march to keep pace with global advances in science and technology. Led by gynecologist Zhang Lizhu, the PUTH research team had devoted more than four years to the human IVF-ET project.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

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

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

Horatio Robinson Storer (1830–1922)

Horatio Robinson Storer was a surgeon and anti-abortion activist in the 1800s who worked in the field of women’s reproductive health and led the Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion in the US. Historians credit Storer as being one of the first physicians to distinguish gynecology, the study of diseases affecting women and their reproductive health, as a separate subject from obstetrics, the study of pregnancy and childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Religion

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

"National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement September 22–24, 1980” (1980), by the National Institutes of Health

In 1980 the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) released a report titled, “National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement September 22–24, 1980.” The report lists recommendations for birth delivery through cesarean sections, a surgical procedure used to deliver the fetus via the pregnant woman’s abdomen. The recommendations arose from the 1980 Consensus Development Conference on Cesarean Childbirth in Bethesda, Maryland.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Assisted Human Reproduction Act (2004)

The Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHR Act) is a piece of federal legislation passed by the Parliament of Canada. The Act came into force on 29 March 2004. Many sections of the Act were struck down following a 2010 Supreme Court of Canada ruling on its constitutionality. The AHR Act sets a legislative and regulatory framework for the use of reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization and related services including surrogacy and gamete donation. The Act also regulates research in Canada involving in vitro embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction, Ethics

George Washington Corner (1889-1981)

As the third director of the Carnegie Institute of Washington s Department of Embryology, George Washington Corner made a number of contributions to the life sciences as well as to administration. Corner was born on 12 December 1889 in Baltimore, Maryland, near the newly established Johns Hopkins University. Although Corner was not exposed to science much in school at a young age, he developed an early appreciation for science through conversations with his father about geography and by looking through the family's National Geographic magazines.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“Chapter Two: Minimum Initial Services Package (MISP)” in Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations: An Inter-agency Field Manual (1999), by the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises

In 1999, the Inter-agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises, hereafter the IAWG, wrote the Minimum Initial Services Package, hereafter MISP, which is the second chapter in Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations: An Inter-agency Field Manual. The IAWG wrote MISP for governments and agencies, who respond to humanitarian crises, as a guide for the provision of reproductive health services at the beginning of a humanitarian crises.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014)

In the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the US Supreme Court ruled that the contraceptive mandate promulgated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act violated privately held, for-profit corporations’ right to religious freedom. The contraception mandate, issued in 2012 by the US Department of Health and Human Services, required that employer-provided health insurance plans offer their beneficiaries certain contraceptive methods free of charge.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction