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James Edgar Till (1931– )

James Edgar Till is a biophysicist known for establishing the existence of stem cells along with Ernest McCulloch in 1963. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can shift, or differentiate, into specialized types of cells and serve as a repair system in the body by dividing indefinitely to replenish other cells. Till’s work with stem cells in bone marrow, which produces the body’s blood cells, helped form the field of modern hematology, a medical discipline that focuses on diseases related to the blood.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Experiments, Technologies

Thesis: Reviving the Dead, Ignoring the Living: Emotions, Ethics, and the Dream of De-Extinction

The goal of this research project was to examine how different messaging techniques, and especially expressions of emotionality surrounding the loss and recovery of biodiversity, can differently influence public attitudes about conservation and the environment. This question was explored using the case of de-extinction, an emerging and controversial conservation technology. De-extinction claims to “resurrect” extinct species, challenging widely held notions of extinction as permanent.

The goal of this research project was to examine how different messaging techniques, and especially expressions of emotionality surrounding the loss and recovery of biodiversity, can differently influence public attitudes about conservation and the environment. This question was explored using the case of de-extinction, an emerging and controversial conservation technology. De-extinction claims to “resurrect” extinct species, challenging widely held notions of extinction as permanent.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Technologies, Ethics

The Guthrie Test for Early Diagnosis of Phenylketonuria

The Guthrie test, also called the PKU test, is a diagnostic tool to test infants for phenylketonuria a few days after birth. To administer the Guthrie test, doctors use Guthrie cards to collect capillary blood from an infant’s heel, and the cards are saved for later testing. Robert Guthrie invented the test in 1962 in Buffalo, New York. Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a congenital birth abnormality in which toxic levels of the amino acid phenylalanine build up in the blood, a process that affects the brains in untreated infants.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Harry Clay Sharp (1870-1940)

Harry Clay Sharp was a surgeon who performed one of the first recorded vasectomies with the purpose of sterilizing a patient. Sterilization is the practice that makes a person unable to reproduce, and vasectomy accomplishes that by severing the vasa deferentia, the sperm-carrying tubes in the male reproductive system. Historically, sterilization procedures have varied in techniques, goals, and risks, but Sharp’s method of vasectomy allowed restriction of a patient’s reproductive functions without significantly affecting other bodily functions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics, People, Organizations, Technologies

Ernst Gräfenberg (1881–1957)

Ernst Gräfenberg was a physician and researcher who studied sexology, the study of human sexuality, in both Germany and the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. Gräfenberg researched the use of intrauterine devices as a form of contraception, and he developed the Gräfenberg ring. The Gräfenberg ring was one of the first intrauterine devices that effectively prevented pregnancy without causing infection, and it became the forerunner of all modern intrauterine devices, or IUDs. Gräfenberg also studied the role of the urethra in female orgasm.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Technologies, Reproduction

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

Beadle and Ephrussi’s Technique to Transplant Optic Discs between Fruit Fly Larvae

In 1935, George Beadle and Boris Ephrussi developed a technique to transplant optic discs between fruit fly larvae. They developed it while at the California Institute of Technology in Pasedena, California. Optic discs are tissues from which the adult eyes develop. Beadle and Ephrussi used their technique to study the development of the eye and eye pigment. (1) The experimenter dissects a donor larva, which is in the third instar stage of development, and removes the optic disc (colored red) with a micropipette.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Technologies, Experiments, Organisms

Cervarix HPV Vaccination Series

In 2011, United Kingdom pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline released Cervarix, a vaccination series protecting girls and women from two strains of Human Papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV, a sexually transmitted infection, can present in men and women without symptoms, or may cause symptoms such as genital warts. There is a link between HPV and cervical, vaginal, anal, head, neck, and face cancers, and Cervarix can reduce genital cancers in girls and women, particularly cervical cancer.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

“HPV in the Etiology of Human Cancer” (2006) by Nubia Muñoz, Xavier Castellsagué, Amy Berrington de González, and Lutz Gissmann

In 2006, the article “HPV in the Etiology of Human Cancer,” hereafter “HPV and Etiology,” by Nubia Muñoz, Xavier Castellsagué, Amy Berrington de González, and Lutz Gissmann, appeared as the first chapter in the twenty-fourth volume of the journal Vaccine. Muñoz and colleagues discuss the role of the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, in uterine cervical cancers. The authors introduce the mechanisms of HPV infection that lead to genital and non-genital cancers, establishing a link between HPV and multiple human cancers.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Processes, Technologies

Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation

The purpose of regenerative medicine, especially tissue engineering, is to replace damaged tissue with new tissue that will allow the body to resume normal function. The uniqueness of tissue engineering is that it can restore normal structure in addition to repairing tissue function, and is often accomplished using stem cells. The first type of tissue engineering using stem cells was hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), a surgical procedure in which hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are infused into a host to treat a variety of blood diseases, cancers, and immunodeficiencies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM)

Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM) is an imaging method that allows the visualization of internal body structures. Using powerful magnets to send energy into cells, MRM picks up signals from inside a specimen and translates them into detailed computer images. MRM is a useful tool for scientists because of its ability to generate digital slices of scanned specimens that can be constructed into virtual 3D images without destroying the specimens. MRM has become an increasingly prevalent imaging technique in embryological studies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

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

Golgi Staining Technique

The Golgi staining technique, also called the black reaction after the stain's color, was developed in the 1870s and 1880s in Italy to make brain cells (neurons) visible under the microscope. Camillo Golgi developed the technique while working with nervous tissue, which required Golgi to examine cell structure under the microscope. Golgi improved upon existing methods of staining, enabling scientists to view entire neurons for the first time and changing the way people discussed the development and composition of the brain's cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Processes

Alexis Carrel's Tissue Culture Techniques

Alexis Carrel, the prominent French surgeon, biologist, and 1912 Nobel Prize laureate for Physiology or Medicine, was one of the pioneers in developing and modifying tissue culture techniques. The publicized work of Carrel and his associates at the Rockefeller Institute established the practice of long-term tissue culture for a wide variety of cells. At the same time, some aspects of their work complicated the operational procedures of tissue culture.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is a test used for prenatal diagnosis of inherited diseases, Rh incompatibility, neural tube defects, and lung maturity. Normally performed during the second trimester of a pregnancy, this invasive procedure allows the detection of health problems in the fetus as early as fifteen weeks gestation. Although amniocentesis does carry some significant risks, the medical community commonly accepts it as a safe and useful procedure.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Pregnancy Tests

Throughout history methods involving urine have been a popular way to test for pregnancy. Early ideas ranged from simply observing the color of a woman's urine to the notion that the urine of pregnant women contains special crystals or secretions. Indeed, pregnancy testing can be traced back to 1350 BCE in Ancient Egypt. A written document from the time describes a process in which a woman would urinate on wheat and barley seeds over several days and, depending on which plant grew, both the woman's pregnancy status and the sex of the fetus could be determined.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

The Aschheim-Zondek Test for Pregnancy

Throughout history many different methods have been devised for the early detection of pregnancy. From the time of the Ancient Egyptians, inspection of the urine has been a popular place to start. However, it was not until the discovery of hormones in the early twentieth century that the development of truly reliable pregnancy tests occurred. Prior to 1978, when the first home pregnancy tests became available in the United States, pregnancy testing was done in hospital laboratories using various methods, one of them being the Aschheim-Zondek, or A-Z test.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Green Fluorescent Protein

Green fluorescent protein (GFP) is a protein in the jellyfish Aequorea Victoria that exhibits green fluorescence when exposed to light. The protein has 238 amino acids, three of them (Numbers 65 to 67) form a structure that emits visible green fluorescent light. In the jellyfish, GFP interacts with another protein, called aequorin, which emits blue light when added with calcium. Biologists use GFP to study cells in embryos and fetuses during developmental processes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Merck & Company's Development of Gardasil

In 2006, the United States branch of Merck & Co. received FDA approval for Gardasil, a human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine that protects against HPV and the cervical cancer that can come with it. In 1891, George F. Merck founded the US branch of the company to distribute chemicals with high purity for use in research, in New York City, New York, and other areas nearby. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause genital warts, regular skin warts, cervical cancer, and other cancers.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, People, Technologies, Disorders

Hormone Releasing Intrauterine Devices

Hormone releasing intrauterine devices or hormonal IUDs are contraceptive devices placed in a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy by continuously releasing a low dose of certain hormones. Jouri Valter Tapani Luukkainen, a medical researcher at the University of Helsinki, introduced the first hormonal IUD in 1976. Luukkainen’s IUD was a plastic device shaped like a capital T.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Thesis: Human Preconception Sex Selection: Informing the Public of Sex Selection Methods and Ethical Considerations

By questioning methods of sex selection since their early development, and often discovering that they are unreliable, scientists have increased the creative and technological capacity of the field of reproductive health. The presentation of these methods to the public, via published books on timing methods and company websites for sperm sorting, increased interest in, and influence of, sex selection within the global society.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Technologies, Ethics

Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound (1873-1906)

First marketed in the US 1875, Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was an herbal medicine used by women to relieve menstrual discomfort and menopausal symptoms in women. The herbal compound was invented by Lydia Estes Pinkham in 1873 in her home kitchen in Lynn, Massachusetts. Pinkham created the compound by mixing alcohol with roots and herbs. The compound was patented, packaged, and distributed by the Mrs. Lydia Pinkham Medicine Company in 1876. The Mrs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

NuvaRing

The NuvaRing is a self-administered hormonal contraceptive device in the form of a flexible plastic ring that is inserted into the vagina. It releases the hormones etonogestrel and ethinylestradiol, which are synthetic forms of the female reproductive hormones progesterone and estrogen, respectively. The pharmaceutical company Organon first made NuvaRing in the Netherlands in 1980s. The Netherlands first approved it for use in February of 2001, and the United States did the same in October of that year.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction, Legal

Ethics and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

The recent development of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and related technologies has caught the attention of scientists, activists, politicians, and ethicists alike. IPSCs gained immediate international attention for their apparent similarity to embryonic stem cells after their successful creation in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka and in 2007 by James Thompson and others.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Ethics

Hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman's uterus. For many women, a hysterectomy comes as a solution to health problems as diverse as abnormal bleeding to reproductive cancers. First performed in the early 1800s, this procedure has evolved in terms of both technique and popularity. The first successful abdominal hysterectomy was performed by Ellis Burnham in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1853, although earlier attempts were made in the 1840s.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction