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Agent Orange as a Cause of Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the spines of developing fetuses and infants, and research in the 20th century indicated that chemicals in the herbicide Agent Orange likely lead to the birth defect. People with spina bifida can have nerve damage, paralysis, and mental disabilities. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the US military employed Agent Orange and other herbicides to destroy enemy crops and forest cover until 1970.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

The Effects of Bisphenol A on Embryonic Development

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound that was first synthesized by Aleksandr Dianin, a Russian chemist from St. Petersburg, in 1891. The chemical nomenclature of BPA is 2,2-bis (4-hydroxyphenyl) propane. The significance of this synthesized compound did not receive much attention until 1936, when two biochemists interested in endocrinology, Edward Dodds and William Lawson, discovered its ability to act as an estrogen agonist in ovariectomized, estrogen-deficient rats.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a medical condition that causes blood sugar levels to become abnormally high, which manifests for the first-time during pregnancy and typically disappears immediately after birth for around ninety percent of affected women. While many women with the condition do not experience any noticeable symptoms, some may experience increased thirst and urination.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

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

Early Infantile Autism and the Refrigerator Mother Theory (1943-1970)

In 1943, child psychiatrist Leo Kanner in the US gave the first account of Early Infantile Autism that encouraged psychiatrists to investigate what they called emotionally cold mothers, or refrigerator mothers. In 1949, Kanner published Problems of Nosology and Psychodynamics of Early Infantile Autism. In that article, Kanner described autistic children as reared in emotional refrigerators. US child psychiatrists claimed that some psychological or behavioral conditions might have origins in emotional or mental stress, meaning that they might be psychogenic.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Theories

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

“Maternal Stress Responses and Anxiety During Pregnancy: Effects on Fetal Heart Rate” (2000), by Catherine Monk, William Fifer, Michael Myers, Richard Sloan, Leslie Trien, and Alicia Hurtado

In 2000, Catherine Monk, William Fifer, Michael Myers, Richard Sloan, Leslie Trien, and Alicia Hurtado published “Maternal stress responses and anxiety during pregnancy: Effects on fetal heart rate,” in which the authors conducted a study on how pregnant women’s stress and anxiety affects the health of their fetuses. Previous studies had shown that stress and anxiety during pregnancy could cause fetal abnormalities.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Disorders

US Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program

In 1996, the US Congress mandated that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) create and regulate the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. The program tests industrial and agricultural chemicals for hormonal impacts in humans and in wildlife that may disrupt organisms' endocrine systems. The endocrine system regulates the release of small amounts of chemical substances called hormones to keep the body functioning normally.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Legal, Ethics

Tay-Sachs Disease

In 1881 British opthalmologist Warren Tay made an unusual observation. He reported a cherry-red spot on the retina of a one-year-old patient, a patient who was also showing signs of progressive degeneration of the central nervous system as manifested in the child's physical and mental retardation. This cherry-red spot is a characteristic that would eventually come to be associated with metabolic neurological disorders like Sandhoff, GM-1, Niemann-Pick, and, to the credit of Tay, the lysosomal storage disorder known as Tay-Sachs disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Emma Wolverton (1889–1978)

Emma Wolverton, also known as Deborah Kallikak, lived her entire life in an institution in New Jersey after psychologist Henry Goddard classified her as feeble-minded. He also wrote a book about Wolverton and her family that psychiatrists previously used to show that intellectual disability is hereditary. At the time, researchers in the psychology field, including Goddard, were working to understand differences in people’s intellectual abilities. They used the term feeble-minded to refer to those they described as having lower intellectual functioning.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Disorders

Role of Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) in Alcohol-Induced Craniofacial Abnormalities

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical and neurological developmental abnormalities that vary depending on the timing, duration, and degree of alcohol exposure. Heavy exposure during development may lead to the condition Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), characterized by growth deficits, neurological deficiencies and minor facial abnormalities. Alcohol is a known teratogen, an agent that causes birth defects and acts upon developing embryos through mechanisms that are not yet fully understood.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1805-1861)

Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire studied anatomy and congenital abnormalities in humans and other animals in nineteenth century France. Under the tutelage of his father, Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Isidore compiled and built on his father's studies of individuals with developmental malformations, then called monstrosities.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Disorders

Retinoids As Teratogens

Vitamin A (retinol) is an essential vitamin in the daily functioning of human beings that helps regulate cellular differentiation of epithelial tissue. Studies have shown that an excess of vitamin A can affect embryonic development and result in teratogenesis, or the production of birth defects in a developing embryo. Excess intake of vitamin A and retinoids by pregnant women often results malformations to fetuses' skulls, faces, limbs, eyes, central nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

John Chassar Moir (1900–1977)

John Chassar Moir lived in Scotland during the twentieth century and helped develop techniques to improve the health of pregnant women. Moir helped to discover compounds that doctors could administer to women after childbirth to prevent life-threatening blood loss. Those compounds included the ergot alkaloid called ergometrine, also called ergonovine, and d-lysergic acid beta-propanolamide. Moir tested ergometrine in postpartum patients and documented that it helped prevent or manage postpartum hemorrhage in women.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Disorders

Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Its Treatment with Artificial Surfactant

Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, previously called hyaline membrane disease, is a respiratory disease affecting premature newborns. Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome involves shallow breathing, pauses between breaths that last a few seconds, or apnea, and a bluish tinge to the infant’s skin. The syndrome occurs when microscopic sacs called alveoli in infant lungs do not produce surfactant, a liquid that coats the inside of the lungs and helps them inflate during breathing.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

“Annual Research Review: Prenatal Stress and the Origins of Psychopathology: An Evolutionary Perspective” (2011), by Vivette Glover

In 2011, fetal researcher Vivette Glover published “Annual Research Review: Prenatal Stress and the Origins of Psychopathology: An Evolutionary Perspective,” hereafter, “Prenatal Stress and the Origins of Psychopathology,” in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. In that article, Glover explained how an evolutionary perspective may be useful in understanding the effects of fetal programming. Fetal programming is a hypothesis that attempts to explain how factors during pregnancy can affect fetuses after birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Reproduction, Disorders

The Effects of Diethylstilbestrol on Embryonic Development

Estrogen plays a key role in the regulation of gene transcription. This is accomplished by its ability to act as a ligand and to bind to specific estrogen receptor (ER) molecules, such as ERα and ERβ, which act as nuclear transcription factors. There are three major nuclear estrogen receptor protein domains: the estrogen binding domain, the protein interaction domain, and the DNA binding domain.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Angelman Syndrome

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Fetal Surgery

Fetal surgeries are a range of medical interventions performed in utero on the developing fetus of a pregnant woman to treat a number of congenital abnormalities. The first documented fetal surgical procedure occurred in 1963 in Auckland, New Zealand when A. William Liley treated fetal hemolytic anemia, or Rh disease, with a blood transfusion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Ethics, Reproduction

Martius Flap Procedure to Repair Obstetric Fistulas

The Martius flap procedure is a surgical procedure used to treat obstetric fistulas in women. Heinrich Martius developed the procedure in twentieth century Germany to treat women with urinary incontinence caused by stress, and later doctors used it to repair obstetric fistulas. Fistulas occur in pregnant women when a hole is torn between the vagina and the urinary tract (called vesicovaginal) or the vagina and the rectum (called rectovaginal). The hole, or fistula, occurs in the tissue separating two organs and therefore obstetric fistulas result in either urinary or fecal incontinence.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Disorders

Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)

Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) can occur in children whose mothers contracted the rubella virus, sometimes called German measles, during pregnancy. Depending on the gestational period when the mother contracts rubella, an infant born with CRS may be unaffected by the virus or it may have severe developmental defects. The most severe effects of the virus on fetal development occur when the mother contracts rubella between conception and the first trimester.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Teratogens

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

“Mothers’ Anxiety During Pregnancy Is Associated with Asthma in Their Children” (2009), by Hannah Cookson, Raquel Granell, Carol Joinson, Yoav Ben-Shlomo, and A. John Henderson

In 2009, A. John Henderson and colleagues published “Mothers’ Anxiety During Pregnancy Is Associated with Asthma in Their Children,” hereafter, “Mothers’ Anxiety,” in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Previous studies had shown that maternal stress during pregnancy affects children’s health during childhood. The researchers explored the association of asthma in children with maternal anxiety during pregnancy. The cause of asthma is often unknown.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Reproduction, Publications, Disorders

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

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