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Teratogens are substances that may produce physical or functional defects in the human embryo or fetus after the pregnant woman is exposed to the substance. Alcohol and cocaine are examples of such substances. Exposure to the teratogen affects the fetus or embryo in a variety of ways, such as the duration of exposure, the amount of teratogenic substance, and the stage of development the embryo or fetus is in during the exposure.
The Whelan Method of Sex Selection
The Whelan Method of Sex Selection is a method for increasing a couple’s probability of conceiving an infant of the desired sex through timing intercourse. Elizabeth Whelan, a public health researcher, suggested that couples only have intercourse at specific times during the woman’s menstrual cycle based on whether they wanted a female or male infant. Whelan published her method in her book, Boy or Girl, in 1977.
“Effect of Vaginal Sildenafil on the Outcome of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) After Multiple IVF Failures Attributed to Poor Endometrial Development” (2002), by Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch
Researchers Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch gave Viagra, also known as sildenafil, to women undergoing fertility treatment to test whether the medication could improve fertility and pregnancy rates. The researchers proposed that Viagra, typically indicated to treat erectile dysfunction in men, would help women with a history of failed past fertility treatments by thickening their endometrial lining, which is the layer of tissue in the uterus where an embryo implants during pregnancy.
Subject: Experiments, Reproduction, Disorders
“Test-tube baby” is a term used to refer to a baby produced through artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization, also called IVF. During artificial insemination, a physician injects carefully selected sperm into a women’s uterus to fertilize her eggs. During IVF, a trained professional harvests eggs from a female donor. Those eggs are fertilized with carefully selected sperm in a petri dish.
South Korea's Bioethics and Biosafety Act (2005)
The South Korean government passed the Bioethics and Biosafety Act, known henceforth as the Bioethics Act, in 2003 and it took effect in 2005. South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare proposed the law to the South Korean National Assembly to allow the progress of biotechnology and life sciences research in South Korea while protecting human research subjects with practices such as informed consent. The Bioethics Act establishes a National Bioethics Committee in Seoul, South Korea.
“Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices of Health Personnel of Maternities in the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV...” (2018), by Elie Nkwabong, Romuald Meboulou Nguel, Nelly Kamgaing, and Anne Sylvie Keddi Jippe
In 2018, researchers Elie Nkwabong, Romuald Meboulou Nguel, Nelly Kamgaing, and Anne Sylvie Keddi Jippe published, “Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices of Health Personnel of Maternities in the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV in a sub-Saharan African Region with High Transmission Rate: Some Solutions Proposed,” in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.
Subject: Publications, Reproduction, Disorders
Dr. John Rock, a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology in Boston, and Miriam Menkin, Rock s hired lab technician, were the first researchers to fertilize a human egg outside of a human body in February of 1944. Their work was published on 4 August 1944 in an issue of Science in an article entitled "In Vitro Fertilization and Cleavage of Human Ovarian Eggs." This experiment marked the first time in history that a human embryo was produced outside of the human body, proving that in vitro fertilization was possible in humans.
Subject: Experiments, Reproduction
"Human Factor IX Transgenic Sheep Produced by Transfer of Nuclei from Transfected Fetal Fibroblasts" (1997), by Angelika E. Schnieke, et al.
In the 1990s, researchers working at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, performed cloning experiments in collaboration with PPL Therapeutics in Roslin, Scotland, on human coagulation factor IX, a protein. The team of scientists used the methods identified during the Dolly experiments to produce transgenic livestock capable of producing milk containing human blood clotting factor IX, which helps to treat a type of hemophilia.
Process of Eukaryotic Embryonic Development
All sexually reproducing, multicellular diploid eukaryotes begin life as embryos. Understanding the stages of embryonic development is vital to explaining how eukaryotes form and how they are related on the tree of life. This understanding can also help answer questions related to morphology, ethics, medicine, and other pertinent fields of study. In particular, the field of comparative embryology is concerned with documenting the stages of ontogeny.
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.
Studies of Thalidomide's Effects on Rodent Embryos from 1962-2008
Thalidomide is a sedative drug introduced to European markets on 1 October 1957 after extensive testing on rodent embryos to ensure its safety. Early laboratory tests in rodent populations showed that pregnant rodents could safely use it, so doctors prescribed Thalidomide to treat morning sickness in pregnant women. However, in humans Thalidomide interfered with embryonic and fetal development in ways not observed in rodent tests.
Subject: Organisms, Reproduction, Disorders
“Does Air Pollution Play a Role in Infertility?: a Systematic Review” (2017), by Julie Carré, Nicolas Gatimel, Jessika Moreau, Jean Parinaud and Roger Léandri
In 2017, Julie Carré, Nicolas Gatimel, Jessika Moreau, Jean Parinaud, and Roger Léandri published “Does Air Pollution Play a Role in Infertility?: a Systematic Review,” hereafter “Does Air Pollution Play a Role,” in the journal Environmental Health. The authors completed a systematic literature review to investigate the effects of air pollutants on fertility in exposed populations.
Subject: Publications, Reproduction
Environment and Birth Defects (1973), by James G. Wilson
Environment and Birth Defects by James Graves Wilson in the US was published in 1973. The book summarized information on the causes of malformations in newborns and aimed to acquaint policy makers with Wilson's suggestions for predicting the risks of environmental causes of birth defects, called teratogens. Wilson also provided six principles for researching teratogens, a framework revised from his 1959 article Experimental Studies on Congenital Malformations. The book has ten chapters.
James G. Wilson's Six Principles of Teratology
James Graves Wilson's six principles of teratology, published in 1959, guide research on teratogenic agents and their effects on developing organisms. Wilson's six principles were inspired by Gabriel Madeleine Camille Dareste's five principles of experimental teratology published in 1877. Teratology is the study of birth defects, and a teratogen is something that either induces or amplifies abnormal embryonic or fetal development and causes birth defects.
Subject: Processes, Reproduction
Gunther von Hagens (1945- )
Gunther von Hagens invented a plastination technique and created Body Worlds, a traveling exhibit that has made anatomy part of the public domain. Von Hagens invented the plastination technique in 1977 while working at Heidelberg University in Heidelberg, Germany. Von Hagen's plastination technique preserves real bodies and tissues by the removal of the fluid and replacement with resin. Body Worlds features three-dimensional, plastinated human bodies.
Subject: People, Outreach, Reproduction
Mary Warnock (1924–2019 )
Baroness Mary Warnock of Weeke, a philosopher and crossbench member and Life Peer of the United Kingdom's House of Lords, participated in several national British committees of inquiry that dealt with ethical and policy issues surrounding animal experimentation, pollution, genetics, and euthanasia to educational policies for children with special needs. One of these was the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilization and Embryology, of which Warnock was the chair.
"RNA-Guided Human Genome Engineering via Cas 9" (2013), by Prashant Mali, Luhan Yang, Kevin M. Esvelt, John Aach, Marc Guell, James E. DiCarlo, Julie E. Norville, and George M. Church
In 2013, George Church and his colleagues at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts published RNA-Guided Human Genome Engineering via Cas 9, in which they detailed their use of RNA-guided Cas 9 to genetically modify genes in human cells. Researchers use RNA-guided Cas 9 technology to modify the genetic information of organisms, DNA, by targeting specific sequences of DNA and subsequently replacing those targeted sequences with different DNA sequences. Church and his team used RNA-guided Cas 9 technology to edit the genetic information in human cells.
Telomeres and Telomerase in Cellular Aging (Senescence)
Telomeres are sequences of DNA on the ends of chromosomes that protect chromosomes from sticking to each other or tangling, which could cause irregularities in normal DNA functions. As cells replicate, telomeres shorten at the end of chromosomes, which correlates to senescence or cellular aging. Integral to this process is telomerase, which is an enzyme that repairs telomeres and is present in various cells in the human body, especially during human growth and development.
Charles Robert Cantor (1942- )
Charles Robert Cantor helped sequence the human genome, and he developed methods to non-invasively determine the genes in human fetuses. Cantor worked in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His early research focused on oligonucleotides, small molecules of DNA or RNA. That research enabled the development of a technique that Cantor subsequently used to describe nucleotide sequences of DNA, a process called sequencing, in humans. Cantor was the principal scientist for the Human Genome Project, for which scientists sequenced the entirety of the human genome in 2003.
Subject: People, Reproduction
Keith Henry Stockman Campbell (1954-2012)
Keith Henry Stockman Campbell studied embryo growth and cell differentiation during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the UK. In 1995, Campbell and his scientific team used cells grown and differentiated in a laboratory to clone sheep for the first time. They named these two sheep Megan and Morag. Campbell and his team also cloned a sheep from adult cells in 1996, which they named Dolly. Dolly was the first mammal cloned from specialized adult (somatic) cells with the technique of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
The Baby Makers (2012)
In 2012, the production company Waddell Media Production released the documentary The Baby Makers. The four-part series, directed and produced by Edel O’Mahony, follows multiple couples in Northern Ireland struggling with infertility problems as they utilize different treatments such as in vitro fertilization, or IVF, egg donation, and egg freezing. IVF is a procedure in which a woman’s egg is fertilized by a sperm outside of her body. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, a fertility doctor places the fertilized egg back into the woman’s uterus.
History of the Monash IVF Research Program from 1971 to 1989
In 1971, a group of researchers founded the Monash IVF Research Program with the mission to discover how in vitro fertilization, or IVF, techniques could become a treatment for infertility in both men and women. The program included researcher Carl Wood and colleagues John Leeton, Alex Lopata, Alan Trounson, and Ian Johnston at the Queen Victoria Medical Center and Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Since the program’s establishment in 1971, the Monash IVF Research Program has helped to develop and implement many IVF technologies still used in clinical practice as of 2020.
Subject: Organizations, Reproduction
Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564)
Andreas Vesalius, also called Andries van Wesel, studied anatomy during the sixteenth century in Europe. Throughout his career, Vesalius thoroughly dissected numerous human cadavers, and took detailed notes and drawings of his research. Compiling his research, Vesalius published an anatomy work titled De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the fabric of the human body in seven books). The Fabrica included illustrations of dissected men, women, and uteruses with intact fetuses.
William Thomas Astbury (1898–1961)
William Thomas Astbury studied the structures of fibrous materials, including fabrics, proteins, and deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in England during the twentieth century. Astbury employed X-ray crystallography, a technique in which scientists use X-rays to learn about the molecular structures of materials. Astbury worked at a time when scientists had not yet identified DNA’s structure or function in genes, the genetic components responsible for how organisms develop and reproduce. He was one of the first scientists to use X-ray crystallography to study the structure of DNA.
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.