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Reassessment of Carrel's Immortal Tissue Culture Experiments

In the 1910s, Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon and biologist, concluded that cells are intrinsically immortal. His claim was based on chick-heart tissue cultures in his laboratory that seemed to be able to proliferate forever. Carrel's ideas about cellular immortality convinced his many contemporaries that cells could be maintained indefinitely. In the 1960s, however, Carrel's thesis about cell immortality was put into question by the discovery that human diploid cells can only proliferate for a finite period.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Theories

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Embryology

The Carnegie Institution of Washington's (CIW) Embryology Department was opened in 1914 and remains one of six departments in the CIW. The department quickly became, and remains, world renowned for its many embryonic development discoveries. In 1913 Franklin P. Mall, Professor of Anatomy at Johns Hopkins Medical School, applied for a Carnegie grant to support his research with human embryos. Mall had a collection of over 800 human embryo specimens and was at the point of wanting to do more than just collect.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Henry Morgentaler (1923-2013)

Henry Morgentaler was a physician who performed abortions, acted as a reproductive rights activist, and advocated for legal access to abortions in Canada during the twentieth century. In 1969, he opened his first abortion clinic in Canada and participated in the legal/court case of R v. Morgentaler (1988), which led Canada to decriminalize abortion. Morgentaler helped establish legal access to abortions for women in Canada and advocated for the protection of women's reproductive choices under the law.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Thesis: The Genesis of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

This is a project about medicine and the history of a condition called premenstrual syndrome (PMS), its “discovery” and conceptual development at both scientific and socio-cultural levels. Since it was first mentioned in medical literature, PMS has been explored empirically as a medical condition and conceptually as a non-somatic cultural phenomenon. Many attempts have been made to produce scientific, empirical evidence to bolster the theory of PMS as a biological disease.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Reproduction

Thesis: Twilight Sleep and its Contributions in Shaping Perceptions of Childbirth

This thesis explores the impact of Twilight Sleep on women and physicians and their perceptions of childbirth. Twilight Sleep empowered women to take on a more active role in shaping the medical care they received rather than accepting childbirth as a natural event associated with physical and mental trauma and high risk of mortality. For doctors, the debate regarding Twilight Sleep’s safety and efficacy affirmed a ubiquitous notion that childbirth ought to be seen as a pathological rather than natural event.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Theories

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

"Genetic Evidence Equating SRY and the Testis-Determining Factor" (1990), by Phillippe Berta et al.

In the late 1980s, Peter Goodfellow in London, UK led a team of researchers who showed that the SRY gene in humans codes a protein that causes testes to develop in embryos. During this time, scientists in London and Paris, including Peter Koompan and John Gubbay, proposed that SRY was the gene on the Y chromosome responsible for encoding the testis-determining factor (TDF) protein. The TDF is a protein that initiates embryo to develop male characteristics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Gordon Watkins Douglas (1921-2000)

Gordon Watkins Douglas researched cervical cancer, breach delivery, and treatment of high blood pressure during pregnancy in the US during the twentieth century. He worked primarily at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York, New York. While at Bellevue, he worked with William E. Studdiford to develop treatments for women who contracted infections as a result of illegal abortions performed throughout the US in unsterile environments.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Radioimmunoassay

Radioimmunoassay (RIA) is a technique in which researchers use radioactive isotopes as traceable tags to quantify specific biochemical substances from blood samples. Rosalyn Yalow and Solomon Berson developed the method in the 1950s while working at the Bronx Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in New York City, New York. RIA requires small samples of blood, yet it is extremely sensitive to minute quantities of biological molecules within the sample. The use of RIA improved the accuracy of many kinds of medical diagnoses, and it influenced hormone and immune research around the world.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

In Vitro Fertilization

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an assisted reproductive technology (ART) initially introduced by Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards in the 1970s to treat female infertility caused by damaged or blocked fallopian tubes. This major breakthrough in embryo research has provided large numbers of women the possibility of becoming pregnant, and subsequent advances have dramatically increased their chances. IVF is a laboratory procedure in which sperm and egg are fertilized outside the body; the term "in vitro" is Latin for "in glass."

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Elizabeth Dexter Hay (1927–2007)

Elizabeth Dexter Hay studied the cellular processes that affect development of embryos in the US during the mid-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In 1974, Hay showed that the extracellular matrix, a collection of structural molecules that surround cells, influences cell behavior. Cell growth, cell migration, and gene expression are influenced by the interaction between cells and their extracellular matrix.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Experiments on Artificial Parthenogenesis in Annelids (Chaetopterus) and the Nature of the Process of Fertilization" (1901), by Jacques Loeb

Jacques Loeb showed that scientists could achieve artificial parthenogenesis with some types of annelid worm eggs through a series of experiments in 1900. Loeb published the results of his experiments in 1901 as "Experiments on Artificial Parthenogenesis in Annelids (Chaetopterus) and the Nature of the Process of Fertilization," in The American Journal of Physiology. Loeb 's results broadened the range of animals to which artificial parthenogenesis applied beyond sea urchins.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation” (1993), by Dean H. Hamer and Charles A. Thomas.

In 1993, Dean H. Hamer and colleagues in the US published results from their research that indicated that men with speicifc genes were more likely to be homosexual than were men without those genes. The study hypothesized that some X chromosomes contain a gene, Xq28, that increases the likelihood of an individual to be homosexual. Prior to those results, researchers had argued that the cause of homosexuality was environmental and that homosexuality could be altered or reversed. Hamer’s research suggested a possible genetic cause of homosexuality.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

George McDonald Church (1954- )

George McDonald Church studied DNA from living and from extinct species in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Church helped to develop and refine techniques with which to describe the complete sequence of all the DNA nucleotides in an organism's genome, techniques such as multiplex sequencing, polony sequencing, and nanopore sequencing. Church also contributed to the Human Genome Project, and in 2005 he helped start a company, the Personal Genome Project. Church proposed to use DNA from extinct species to clone and breed new organisms from those species.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Technologies

American Eugenics Society (1926-1972)

The American Eugenics Society (AES) was established in the US by
Madison Grant, Harry H. Laughlin, Henry Crampton, Irving Fisher, and
Henry F. Osborn in 1926 to promote eugenics education programs for
the US public. The AES described eugenics as the study of improving
the genetic composition of humans through controlled reproduction of
different races and classes of people. The AES aided smaller eugenic
efforts such as the Galton Society in New York, New York, and the

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

John Hunter (1728–1793)

John Hunter studied human reproductive anatomy, and in eighteenth century England, performed one of the earliest described cases of artificial insemination. Hunter dissected thousands of animals and human cadavers to study the structures and functions of organ systems. Much of his anatomical studies focused on the circulatory, digestive, and reproductive systems. He helped to describe the exchange of blood between pregnant women and their fetuses. Hunter also housed various natural collections, as well as thousands of preserved specimens from greater than thirty years of anatomy work.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

"The Association between Depressive Symptoms and Social Support in Taiwanese Women During the Month" (2004), by Shu-Shya Heh et al.

In 2004, Shu-Shya Heh, Lindsey Coombes, and Helen Bartlett studied the association between Chinese postpartum (post-childbirth) practices and postpartum depression in Taiwanese women. The researchers surveyed Taiwanese women about the social support they received after giving birth and then evaluated the depression rates in the same women. Heh and her colleagues focused on the month following childbirth, which according to traditional Chinese medicine, is an important period that warrants a set of specialized practices to aid the woman's recovery.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Andrew Zachary Fire (1959- )

Andrew Zachary Fire is a professor at Stanford University and Nobel Laureate. Fire worked at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Embryology in Baltimore, Maryland, with colleague Craig Mello, where they discovered that RNA molecules could be used to turn off or knock out the expression of genes. Fire and Mello called the process RNA interference (RNAi), and won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2006 for their discovery.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Francis Sellers Collins (1950- )

Francis Sellers Collins helped lead the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, which helped describe the DNA sequence of the human genome by 2001, and he helped develop technologies used in molecular genetics while working in the US in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He directed the US National Center for Human Genome Research (NCHGR), which became the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), located in Bethesda, Maryland, from 1993 to 2008.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

“All-fours Maneuver for Reducing Shoulder Dystocia During Labor” (1999), by Joseph P. Bruner, Susan B. Drummond, Anna L. Meenan, and Ina May Gaskin

In 1999, Joseph Bruner, Susan B. Drummond, Anna L. Meenan, and Ina May Gaskin published, “All-fours Maneuver for Reducing Shoulder Dystocia During Labor,” in the medical journal, Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey. In the article, the authors described a birthing technique named the all-fours maneuver, or the Gaskin maneuver, and explained its effectiveness in treating fetal shoulder dystocia as compared to other maneuvers.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Processes

"The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever” (1843), by Oliver Wendell Holmes

In 1843, physician Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote and published The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever, an essay about puerperal fever, a disease that occurs mainly as a result of bacterial infection in the uterine tract of women after giving birth or undergoing an abortion. In the essay, Holmes argues that puerperal fever is spread through birth attendants like physicians and midwives who make contact with the disease and carry it from patient to patient. The article was published in The New England Quarterly Journal of Medicine and Surgery in 1843.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson’s Experiments on the Freezing of Bull Spermatozoa (1950–1952)

In 1952, researchers Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson, who worked at the Animal Research Center in Cambridge, England, detailed several experiments on protocols for freezing bull semen for use in the artificial insemination of cows. Freezing sperm extends the life of a viable sperm sample and allows it to be used at later times, such as in artificial insemination. The researchers examined the effects of freezing conditions on bull sperm and how well they produce fertilized embryos once thawed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Katharina Dorothea Dalton (1916–2004)

Katharina Dorothea Dalton was a physician in England in the twentieth century who defined premenstrual syndrome (PMS) as a cluster of symptoms suspected to begin one to two weeks before menstruation and disappear upon the onset of a new menstrual cycle. Prior to Dalton, there was little research on pre-menstrual issues and those that existed linked the problem to excessive water retention or estrogen. Dalton hypothesized that PMS resulted from a deficiency in the hormone progesterone and advocated for hormone replacement therapy to lessen the symptoms of the syndrome.

Format: Articles

Subject: People