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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

Medical Vibrators for Treatment of Female Hysteria

During the late 1800s through the early 1900s, physicians administered pelvic massages involving clitoral stimulation by early electronic vibrators as treatments for what was called female hysteria. Until the early 1900s, physicians used female hysteria as a diagnosis for women who reported a wide range of complaints and symptoms unexplainable by any other diagnosis at the time. According to historian Rachel Maines, physicians provided pelvic massages for thousands of years to female patients without it being considered erotic or sexually stimulating.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Technologies, Ethics

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

Pope Pius IX (1792-1878)

Pope Pius IX, born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, marked his contribution to the abortion debate by removing the distinction between an "animated" and "unanimated" fetus from Catholic doctrine, and established the edict that a human should be protected starting from the moment of conception onward. This proclamation made abortion at any time of gestation punishable by excommunication. Pope Pius IX's decision became Canon Law of the Catholic Church.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

The Baby Doe Rules (1984)

The Baby Doe Rules represent the first attempt by the US government to directly intervene in treatment options for neonates born with congenital defects. The name of the rule comes from the controversial 1982 case of a Bloomington, Indiana infant Baby Doe, a name coined by the media. The Baby Doe Rules mandate that, as a requirement for federal funding, hospitals and physicians must provide maximal care to any impaired infant, unless select exceptions are met. If a physician or parent chooses to withhold full treatment when the exceptions are not met, they are liable for medical neglect.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

The Y-Chromosome in Animals

The Y-chromosome is one of a pair of chromosomes that determine the genetic sex of individuals in mammals, some insects, and some plants. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the development of new microscopic and molecular techniques, including DNA sequencing, enabled scientists to confirm the hypothesis that chromosomes determine the sex of developing organisms. In an adult organism, the genes on the Y-chromosome help produce the male gamete, the sperm cell. Beginning in the 1980s, many studies of human populations used the Y-chromosome gene sequences to trace paternal lineages.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Theories

Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that are capable of dividing for long periods of time and can give rise to specialized cells under particular conditions. Embryonic stem cells are a particular type of stem cell derived from embryos. According to US National Institutes of Health (NIH), in humans, the term "embryo" applies to a fertilized egg from the beginning of division up to the end of the eighth week of gestation, when the embryo becomes a fetus. Between fertilization and the eighth week of gestation, the embryo undergoes multiple cell divisions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Howard Wilber Jones Jr.

Howard Wilber Jones Jr. and his wife, Georgeanna Seegar Jones, developed a method of in vitro fertilization and helped create the first baby in the US using that method. Though the first in vitro baby was born in England in 1978, Jones and his wife's contribution allowed for the birth of Elizabeth Carr on 28 December 1981. Jones, a gynecologist and an obstetrician, researched human reproduction for most of his life.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) is a rare placental disease that can occur at any time during pregnancy involving identical twins. TTTS occurs when there is an unequal distribution of placental blood vessels between fetuses, which leads to a disproportionate supply of blood delivered. This unequal allocation of blood leads to developmental problems in both fetuses that can range in severity depending on the type, direction, and number of interconnected blood vessels.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Pope Pius XI (1857-1939)

Pope Pius XI, born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, was born to the wealthy owner of a silk factory on 31 May 1857 in Desio, Italy. He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of eighteen, at which time he began a long life devoted to study, peacekeeping, and the betterment of societies around the world. Pius XI is noted here for his contribution to the Roman Catholic Church's early twentieth century approach to issues regarding contraception and abortion, which was presented in his December 1930 encyclical "Casti Connubii."

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Leon Chesley (1908-2000)

Leon Chesley studied hypertension, or high blood pressure, in pregnant women during the mid-twentieth century. Chesley studied preeclampsia and eclampsia, two hypertensive disorders found in approximately five percent of all US pregnancies. In New Jersey and New York, Chesley devoted over forty years to researching preeclampsia and eclampsia. Chesley conducted several long-term studies using the same group of women beginning from their pregnancies.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

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

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

James Marion Sims's Treatment of Vesico-Vaginal Fistula

James Marion Sims developed a treatment for vesico-vaginal fistulas in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1840s. Vesico-vaginal fistulas were a relatively common condition in which a woman's urine leaked into her vaginal cavity from her bladder, and many regarded the fistulas as untreatable during the early 1800s. After years of efforts to repair the fistulas with myriad tools, techniques, and procedures, Sims developed the speculum and a vaginal examination position later named for him.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Cardiac Development

A variety of developmental defects occur as a result of prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) in utero. In humans, those defects are collectively classified as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) representing the more severe defects. FAS is defined by pre- and post-natal growth retardation, minor facial abnormalities, and deficiencies in the central nervous system (CNS). In addition to those defects, prenatal exposure to alcohol impacts cardiogenesis, the developmental stage of heart formation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Isotretinoin (Accutane) as a Teratogen

Isotretinoin is a molecule and a byproduct (metabolite) of vitamin A, and in greater than normal amounts in pregnant women, it can cause fetal abnormalities including cleft lips, ear and eye defects, and mental retardation. Isotretinoin is commonly called by its trade name Accutane, and it's a chemical compound derived from vitamin A, or retinoic acid. Doctors prescribe isotretinoin to treat severe acne. For pregnant women, too much vitamin A or isotretinoin can also cause greater than normal rates of stillbirths and fetal disintegrations after the ninth week of gestation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Pope Gregory XIV (1535-1591)

Pope Gregory XIV, born Nicolo Sfondrati, reversed the bull of Pope Sixtus V, Effraenatum, under which an abortion at any time of gestation can be punished by excommunication. He supported the Aristotelian distinction between an "animated" and "unanimated" fetus, making abortion of an unanimated fetus punishable by lesser means. This decision contributed to the historical debates within the Roman Catholic Church on when a fetus has a soul, and when abortion was punishable by excommunication.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Pope Pius XII (1876-1958)

Pope Pius XII was born Eugenio Maria Giuseppi Giovanni Pacelli on 2 March 1876 in Rome, Italy, to Virginia and Filippo Pacelli. Known for his oft-disputed role in the Roman Catholic Church's approach to the Nazis and World War II, Pope Pius XII also contributed a number of important documents regarding conception, fertility, abortion, and reproductive control to the Vatican's collection of writings and doctrine on procreation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

York v. Jones [Brief] (1989)

The court treated frozen embryos possessed by an in vitro fertilization clinic as property owned by the parents and held under a bailment contract by the clinic. As such, the contract between the parties controlled disposition of the embryos but when the contract ended, control of the embryos reverted back to the parents. This decision had little effect on subsequent embryo cases because the circumstances were so unusual. Neither party contended the embryos had any rights.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Mary Coffin Ware Dennett (1872-1947)

Mary Coffin Ware Dennett advocated for social reform in the United States in the early twentieth century, particularly regarding sex education and women's rights to access contraception. Dennett authored several publications on sex education and birth control laws. She also worked to repeal the Comstock Act, a federal law that made it illegal to distribute obscene materials through the US Postal Services.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

The Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1910-1939)

From its founding in 1910 until it closed its doors in 1939, the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York was the center of the American Eugenics Movement. Charles Davenport, a geneticist and biologist, founded the ERO, and served as its director until 1934. Under the direction of Davenport and his associate, superintendant Harry H. Laughlin, the influence of the ERO on science and public policy waxed during the early twentieth century until after World War II.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

The Yale Embryo

In 1934 a fourteen-day-old embryo was discovered during a postmortem examination and became famous for being the youngest known human embryo specimen at the time. The embryo was coined "the Yale Embryo," named after the location where it was discovered, Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. During the early twentieth century, the rush to collect embryos as well as to find younger and younger embryos was at an all time high, and the Yale Embryo is representative of the this enthusiasm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Pope Sixtus V (1520-1590)

Known for dropping a long-held distinction in the Catholic Church between the animated and unanimated fetus, Felice Peretti was born in Grottamare, Italy, in 1521, son of a Dalmatian gardener. In his early years, Peretti worked as a swineherd, but soon became involved in the local Minorite convent in Montalto, where he served as a novice at the age of twelve. He went on to study in Montalto, Ferrara, and Bologna, continuing his devotion to religious life, and in 1547 Peretti was ordained as priest in the city of Siena.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

The Comstock Law (1873)

The Comstock Law was a controversial law because it limited the reproductive rights of women and violated every person's right to privacy. This federal law was the beginning of a long fight over the reproductive rights of women which is still being waged. Reproductive rights are important to embryology because they lead to the discussions regarding the morality of abortion, contraceptives, and ultimately the moral status of the embryo.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Min Chueh Chang (1908-1991)

As one of the researchers involved in the development of the oral contraceptive pill, Min Chueh Chang helped to revolutionize the birth control movement. Although best known for his involvement with "the pill," Chang also made a number of discoveries throughout his scientific career involving a range of topics within the field of reproductive biology. He published nearly 350 articles in scientific journals.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction