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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

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

The concept Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) refers to a set of birth defects that occur in children born to mothers who abused alcohol during pregnancy. The alcohol-induced defects include pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies, minor facial abnormalities, and damage to the developing central nervous system (CNS).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Pre- and Post-natal Growth Deficiencies and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) during pregnancy can inhibit prenatal growth, resulting in fetuses that are small for gestational age. Those prenatal growth deficiencies can have lasting consequences for early childhood development and are often reflected by low weight and stature. Those alcohol-induced pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies ("failure to thrive") are among the abnormal developmental criteria used to identify Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is characterized by minor facial abnormalities and deficiencies of the central nervous system as well.

Format: Articles

Subject: 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

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) is a human disorder in which an individual's genetic sex (genotype) differs from that individual's observable secondary sex characteristics (phenotypes). A fetus with AIS is genetically male with a 46,XY genotype. The term 46,XY refers to the chromosomes found in most cells of the fetus. Most cells have a total of 46 autosomes, or non-sex chromosomes, and a pair sex chromosomes, XX for genetic females, or XY for genetic males.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

The Development of Mifepristone for Use in Medication Abortions

In the 1980s, researchers at the pharmaceutical company Roussel-Uclaf in Paris, France, helped develop a biological compound called mifepristone. When a woman takes it, mifepristone interferes with the function of hormones involved in pregnancy and it can therefore be used to terminate pregnancies. In 2000, the US Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, also called RU 486, as part of a treatment to induce abortions using drugs instead of surgery, a method called medication abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction

Hydrocephalus During Infancy

Hydrocephalus is a congenital or acquired disorder characterized by the abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the cavities of the brain, called ventricles. The accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid, the clear fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, causes an abnormal widening of the ventricles. The widening creates potentially harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain that can result in brain damage or death.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

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

Dandy-Walker Syndrome

Dandy-Walker Syndrome is a congenital brain defect in humans characterized by malformations to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement, and to the ventricles, the fluid-filled cavities that surround the cerebellum. The syndrome is named for physicians Walter Dandy and Arthur Walker who described associated signs and symptoms of the syndrome in the 1900s. The malformations often develop during embryonic stages.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)

Transposition of the great arteries or TGA is a potentially fatal congenital heart malformation where the pulmonary artery and the aorta are switched. The switch means that the aorta, which normally carries oxygenated blood, carries deoxygenated blood. There are two types of the malformation, d-TGA where no oxygen reaches the body and l-TGA where some oxygenated blood circulates. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that about 1,901 infants are born each year with TGA, or about one for every 2,000 births.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

VACTERL Association

VACTERL association is a term applied to a specific group of abnormalities involving structures derived from the mesoderm. Although the defects of this disorder are clearly linked, VACTERL is called an association rather than a syndrome because the exact genetic cause is unknown. "VACTERL" is an acronym, each letter standing for one of the defects associated with the condition: V for vertebral anomalies, A for anal atresia, C for cardiovascular anomalies, T for tracheoesophageal fistula, E for esophageal atresia, R for renal anomalies, and L for limb defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: 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

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

Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome)

John Hilton Edwards first described the symptoms of the genetic disorder known as Trisomy 18 - one of the most common forms of trisomy, which occurs when cells have an extra copy of a chromosome, in humans - in 1960. Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards Syndrome, occurs approximately once per 6000 live births and is second in frequency only to Trisomy 21, or Down's Syndrome, as an autosomal trisomy. Trisomy 18 causes substantial developmental problems in utero.

Format: Articles

Subject: 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

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Arthur Earl Walker (1907-1995)

Arthur Earl Walker was a medical researcher and physician who studied the brain and neurosurgery in the United States during the twentieth century. Walker examined the connections of the thalamus to the rest of the brain and how the thalamus coordinates sensory signals. The thalamus is a cluster of nerve cells located between the two hemispheres of the brain and it is responsible for consciousness and sensory interpretation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"'Doing the Month': Confinement and Convalescence of Chinese Women After Childbirth" (1978), by Barbara L.K. Pillsbury

In 1978 Social Science and Medicine published Barbara L.K. Pillsbury's article, 'Doing the Month': Confinement and Convalescence of Chinese Women After Childbirth, which summarized the results of Pillsbury's study on Chinese childbirth customs. Pillsbury, a professor of cultural anthropology at San Diego State University in San Diego, California, conducted over eighty interviews with people in Taiwan and China, including civilians, herbalists, and physicians over a four-month period in 1975.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Charles Manning Child (1869-1954)

Born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on 2 February 1869, Charles Manning Child was the only surviving child of Mary Elizabeth and Charles Chauncey Child, a prosperous, old New England family. Growing up in Higganum, Connecticut, Child was interested in biology from an early age. He made extensive collections of plants and minerals on his family farm and went on to study biology at Wesleyan University, commuting from his family home. Child received his PhB in 1890 and MS in biology in 1892, and then went on to study in Leipzig after his parents death.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Malthusian League (1877–1927)

The Malthusian League, founded in London, England, in 1877 promoted the use of contraception to limit family size. Activists Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant established the Malthusian League after they were arrested and exonerated for publishing a pamphlet describing techniques to prevent pregnancy. Founders based the league on the principles of Thomas Malthus, a British nineteenth century economist, who wrote on the perils of a population growing beyond the resources available to support it.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Outreach, Reproduction

Stem Cells

According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the standard American source on stem cell research, three characteristics of stem cells differentiate them from other cell types: (1) they are unspecialized cells that (2) divide for long periods, renewing themselves and (3) can give rise to specialized cells, such as muscle and skin cells, under particular physiological and experimental conditions. When allowed to grow in particular environments, stem cells divide many times. This ability to proliferate can yield millions of stem cells over several months.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You (2015), by the British Broadcasting Corporation and The Open University

In 2015, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) partnered with The Open University to produce the three-part documentary series, Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You. Michael Mosley, a British television producer and journalist, hosts the documentary. Along with narrating animated scenes of a growing fetus in the womb, Mosley meets with individuals around the world who experienced mutations that can arise in the womb. Introduced over the course of the three episodes, several people share their personal stories of how their bodies did not develop correctly prior to birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Presence of Fetal DNA in Maternal Plasma and Serum" (1997), by Dennis Lo, et al.

In the late 1990s researchers Yuk Ming Dennis Lo and his colleagues isolated fetal DNA extracted from pregnant woman’s blood. The technique enabled for more efficient and less invasive diagnoses of genetic abnormalities in fetuses, such as having too many copies of chromosomes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Johann Friedrich Meckel, the Younger (1781-1833)

Johann Friedrich Meckel studied abnormal animal and human anatomy in nineteenth century Germany in an attempt to explain embryological development. During Meckel's lifetime he catalogued embryonic malformations in multiple treatises. Meckel's focus on malformations led him to develop concepts like primary and secondary malformations, atavism, and recapitulation- all of which influenced the fields of medicine and embryology during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Hershey-Chase Experiments (1952), by Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase

In 1951 and 1952, Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase conducted a series of experiments at the Carnegie Institute of Washington in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, that verified genes were made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Hershey and Chase performed their experiments, later named the Hershey-Chase experiments, on viruses that infect bacteria, also called bacteriophages. The experiments followed decades of scientists’ skepticism about whether genetic material was composed of protein or DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments