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Emil von Behring (1854–1917)
Emil von Behring researched treatments for the common childhood disease diphtheria in Germany in the 1890s and early 1900s. Diphtheria is a lethal disease that infected approximately 40,000 people in Germany between 1886 and 1888 with a general mortality rate of twenty-five percent. Behring investigated treatment of diphtheria using serum therapy, which is an alternative to vaccination that uses protective agents from other people’s blood to defend a patient against disease. Behring termed those protective agents antitoxins.
Seed Banking 1979-1994
In the early twentieth century, scientists and agriculturalists collected plants in greenhouses, botanical gardens, and fields. Seed collection efforts in the twentieth century coincided with the professionalization of plant breeding. When scientists became concerned over the loss of plant genetic diversity due to the expansion of a few agricultural crops around mid-century, countries and organizations created seed banks for long-term seed storage.
Julia Barlow Platt (1857-1935)
Julia Barlow Platt studied neural crests in animal embryos and became involved in politics in the US during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She researched how body and head segments formed in chicks (Gallus gallus) and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias). Platt observed that in the mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), the coordinated migration of neural crest cells in the embryo produced parts of the nervous system, bones, and connective tissues in the head.
Stem Cell Tourism
When James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin announced in 1998 that he had derived and cultured human embryonic stem cells(hESCs), Americans widely believed-and accepted-that stem cells would one day be the basis of a multitude of regenerative medical techniques. Researchers promised that they would soon be able to cure a variety of diseases and injuries such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries, severe burns, and many others. But it wasn't until January 2009 that the Food and Drug Administration approved the first human clinical trials using hESCs.
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
Lennart Nilsson (1922- )
Lennart Nilsson is a world-renowned photojournalist recognized for his exploratory images of the inside of the human body. Throughout his career, Nilsson has received a great deal of publicity for his images documenting the human reproductive system and the morphology of viruses. His photography was the first to capture early human development and the developmental stages of embryos and fetuses. These images have helped shape the way the public visualizes development.
Subject: People, Outreach, Reproduction
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.
Subject: Legal, Reproduction
Life's Greatest Miracle (2001), by Julia Cort and NOVA
The Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) documentary Life's Greatest Miracle (abbreviated Miracle, available at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/miracle/program.html), is arguably one of the most vivid illustrations of the making of new human life. Presented as part of the PBS television series NOVA, Miracle is a little less than an hour long and was first aired 20 November 2001. The program was written and produced by Julia Cort and features images by renowned Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson.
Subject: Outreach, Reproduction
Joseph Bolivar DeLee (1869–1942)
Joseph Bolivar DeLee was an obstetrician in the US between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who advocated for the specialized teaching of medical students in the field of obstetrics to address problems occurring during pregnancy. He claimed obstetricians maintained a wider skillset than midwives, and founded the Chicago Lying-In Hospital to provide affordable obstetric care to women in Chicago, Illinois.
"Visualizing Human Embryos" (1999), by Bradley Richard Smith
In March 1999 Bradley Richard Smith, a professor at the University of Michigan, unveiled the first digital magnetic resonance images of human embryos. In his article "Visualizing Human Embryos for Scientific American," Smith displayed three-dimensional images of embryos using combinations of Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM), light microscopy, and various computer editing. He created virtual embryo models that it is possible to view as dissections, animations, or in their whole 3D form. Smith's images constitute a new way of visualizing embryos.
Subject: Outreach, Publications
“Improving Women’s Health”: Section 3509 of the Affordable Care Act of 2010
In 2010, US Congress enacted section 3509 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or ACA, to target issues relating to women’s health. The ACA, signed into law by US President Barack Obama, aimed to increase people’s access to high-quality healthcare in the United States.
“Mesenchymal and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells: General Insights and Clinical Perspectives” (2015), by Helena D. Zomer, Antanásio S. Vidane, Natalia G. Gonçalves, and Carlos E. Ambrósio
In 2015, biologist Helena D. Zomer and colleagues published the review article “Mesenchymal and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells: General Insights and Clinical Perspectives” or “Mesenchymal and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells” in Stem Cells and Cloning: Advances and Applications. The authors reviewed the biology of three types of pluripotent stem cells, embryonic stem cells, or ESCs, mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, and induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells. Pluripotent stem cells are a special cell type that can give rise to other types of cells and are essential for development.
Free Hospital for Women Scrapbook by Harvard University Library
This scrapbook is part of the Harvard University Library's collection on "Working Women, 1800-1930," which is itself part of the Open Collections Program. The print version is located at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. It contains information about the hospital, including articles from newspapers, magazines, and other publications; photographs of the hospital, employees, and special events; lecture announcements; letters and other forms of correspondence; ration cards; tickets; forms; certificates; posters; programs; and playbills.
Subject: Organizations, Ethics, Reproduction
Angelman syndrome is a disorder in humans that causes neurological symptoms such as lack of speech, jerky movements, and insomnia. A human cell has two copies of twenty-three chromosomes for a total of forty-six-one copy from its mother and one from its father. But in the case of Angelman syndrome, the maternal chromosome numbered 15 has a mutation or deletion in its DNA and a gene on the paternal chromosome 15 is inactivated in some parts the brain. The result is the paternal gene is silenced during development of the sperm, which is called genetic imprinting.
Clifford Grobstein (1916-1998)
Clifford Grobstein was a traditional, influential, and highly innovative biologist of the mid-twentieth century, gifted with many character facets and pragmatic talents. His early adulthood passion of linking classical embryology with developmental anatomy and medicine was joined by his later pursuit of combining research ethics and science education with public policy.
Kurt Benirschke (1924-)
Kurt Benirschke studied cells, placentas, and endangered species in Germany and the US during the twentieth century. Benirschke was professor at the University of California in San Diego, California, and a director of the research department at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California. He also helped form the research department of the San Diego Zoo and its sister organization, the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species.
The Singapore Bioethics Advisory Committee
Established in tandem with Singapore's national Biomedical Sciences Initiatives, the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) was established by the Singapore Cabinet in December 2000 to examine the potential ethical, legal, and social issues arising from Singapore's biomedical research sector, and to recommend policy to Singapore's government.
Subject: Organizations, Ethics, Legal
Elizabeth Dexter Hay (1927–2007)
Elizabeth Dexter Hay studied the cellular processes that affect development of embryos in the US during the mid-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In 1974, Hay showed that the extracellular matrix, a collection of structural molecules that surround cells, influences cell behavior. Cell growth, cell migration, and gene expression are influenced by the interaction between cells and their extracellular matrix.
James Alexander Thomson (1958- )
James Alexander Thomson, affectionately known as Jamie Thomson, is an American developmental biologist whose pioneering work in isolating and culturing non-human primate and human embryonic stem cells has made him one of the most prominent scientists in stem cell research. While growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, Thomson's rocket-scientist uncle inspired him to pursue science as a career. Born on 20 December 1958, Thomson entered the nearby University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign nineteen years later as a National Merit Scholar majoring in biophysics.
David Hunter Hubel (1926–2013)
David Hunter Hubel studied the development of the visual system and how the brain processes visual information in the US during the twentieth century. He performed multiple experiments with kittens in which he sewed kitten’s eyes shut for varying periods of time and monitored their vision after reopening them. Hubel, along with colleague Torsten Wiesel, received the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for that research.
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.
Allan Charles Wilson (1934-1991)
Allan C. Wilson studied genes, proteins, and body structures of animals and humans in the US during the second half of the twentieth century. Wilson also studied human evolution. Although morphology and behaviors of humans (Homo sapiens) and great apes differ, Wilson found that they have biochemical and genetic similarities. Wilson and his colleagues calculated the time period of humans' and African apes' common ancestor.
Gail Roberta Martin (1944– )
In the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Gail Roberta Martin specialized in biochemistry and embryology, more specifically cellular communication and the development of organs. In 1981, she named any cell taken from inside a human embryo at the blastocyst stage an “embryonic stem cell”. During development, an embryo goes through the blastocyst stage just before it implants in the uterus. Embryonic stem cells are useful for experiments because they are self-renewing and able to develop into almost any cell type in the body.
Bailey v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Virginia (1994)
In 1994, the Eastern Virginia District court case Bailey v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Virginia established that insurance companies could not deny coverage for experimental stem cell therapy treatments. The plaintiff, Mary Bailey, was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer and sought treatment involving high-dose chemotherapy and an advanced stem cell treatment, which was a novelty at the time. Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into several different types of cells in the body.
A Series of YouTube Videos Detailing the “CRISPR Babies” Experiment (2018), by He Jiankui
In 2018, He Jiankui uploaded a series of videos to a YouTube channel titled “The He Lab” that detailed one of the first instances of a successful human birth after genome editing had been performed on an embryo using CRISPR-cas9. CRISPR-cas9 is a genome editing tool derived from bacteria that can be used to cut out and replace specific sequences of DNA. He genetically modified embryos at his lab in Shenzhen, China, to make them immune to contracting HIV through indirect perinatal transmission from their father, who was infected with the virus.
Subject: Publications, Experiments, Ethics