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Studies of Thalidomide's Effects on Rodent Embryos from 1962-2008

Thalidomide is a sedative drug introduced to European markets on 1 October 1957 after extensive testing on rodent embryos to ensure its safety. Early laboratory tests in rodent populations showed that pregnant rodents could safely use it, so doctors prescribed Thalidomide to treat morning sickness in pregnant women. However, in humans Thalidomide interfered with embryonic and fetal development in ways not observed in rodent tests.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms, Reproduction, Disorders

Robert Geoffrey Edwards and Patrick Christopher Steptoe's Clinical Research in Human in vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer, 1969-1980

The biomedical accomplishment of human in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET) took years to become the successful technique that presently enables infertile couples to have their own children. In 1969, more than ten years after the first attempts to treat infertilities with IVF technologies, the British developmental biologist Robert Geoffrey Edwards fertilized human oocytes in a Petri dish for the first time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, 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

National Embryo Donation Center

The National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) is a non-profit organization that was established in 2002 in Knoxville, Tennessee. The organization is endorsed and supported by several Christian-based associations such as the Christian Medical Association, Bethany Christian Services, and Baptist Health Systems. Its goal is to provide embryo donation and embryo adoption services in order to utilize the large number of embryos that are being cryopreserved as a result of infertility procedures and are no longer needed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

Ziegler Wax Embryo Models

Three-dimensional anatomical models have long been essential to the learning of science and lend a sense of "control" to those practicing in the field. As the development of embryology grew in importance during the late 1800s, so did the need for models to show intricate details of embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Images of Embryos in Life Magazine in the 1950s

Embryonic images displayed in Life magazine during the mid-twentieth century serve as a representation of technological advances and the growing public interest in the stages of embryological development. These black-and-white photographs portray skeletal structures and intact bodies of chicken embryos and human embryos and fetuses obtained from collections belonging to universities and medical institutions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Publications, Reproduction

Jeffrey Keenan (1961- )

Jeffrey Keenan is the Director of the Southeastern Center for Fertility and Reproductive Medicine and the main developer behind the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, Tennessee. This non-profit organization focuses on embryo donation and embryo adoption.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, 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

J.B. v. M.B. [Brief] (2001)

In a dispute over frozen embryos during a divorce case, the court decided the wife's fundamental right to not procreate mandated destruction of the pre-embryos in light of the husband's continuing ability to procreate with a different partner. The court also said embryo disposition agreements used by in vitro fertilization clinics were generally enforceable subject to either spouse's right to change his or her mind prior to use of the pre-embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Davis v. Davis [Brief] (1992)

This case was the first of its kind to address questions of personhood in the context of in vitro fertilization of a human embryo. It laid a foundation for future cases to work from: specifically, this case established the importance of prior written agreements for disposition of frozen embryos. This was also the first court decision to borrow the word "pre-embryo" from bioethics to describe the in vitro embryo. This terminology has been copied by many states.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Doolan v. IVF America [Brief] (2000)

The implication of the court's decision was that Thomas Doolan's identity or personhood existed at the embryo stage in vitro, thus the fact that he was born with cystic fibrosis was not attributable to the decision of the in vitro fertilization providers to implant one embryo instead of another. The other unused embryo may not have carried the cystic fibrosis genes, but that other embryo was not Thomas Doolan. The decision in Doolan has not been publicly tested in other jurisdictions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Jeter v. Mayo (2005)

In Jeter v. Mayo, the Court of Appeals of Arizona in 2005 held that a cryopreserved, three-day-old pre-embryo is not a person for purposes of Arizona's wrongful death statutes, and that the Arizona Legislature was best suited to decide whether to expand the law to include cryopreserved pre-embryos. The Court of Appeals affirmed a decision by the Maricopa County Superior Court to dismiss a couple's wrongful death claim after the Mayo Clinic (Mayo) allegedly lost or destroyed several of their cryopreserved pre-embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Legal

Jeter v. Mayo Clinic Arizona [Brief] (2005)

In Arizona, statutes that protect persons, such as the wrongful death statute, will not be interpreted by the courts to grant personhood status to frozen embryos. The legislature may grant such protection in the statute if it chooses to do so by explicitly defining the word person to include frozen embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

"Drama of Life Before Birth" (1965), by Life Magazine and Lennart Nilsson

Life Magazine's 1965 cover story "Drama of Life Before Birth" featured photographs of embryos and fetuses taken by Swedish photojournalist Lennart Nilsson to document the developmental stages of a human embryo. Included in this article was the first published image of a living fetus inside its mother's womb. Prior to this, embryos and fetuses were observed, studied, and photographed outside of women's bodies as non-living specimens.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Outreach, Reproduction

Litowitz v. Litowitz [Brief] (2002)

Pursuant to an express provision of the embryo disposition contract they both signed, a husband and wife had to petition the court for instructions because they could not reach an agreement about what to do with frozen embryos when they divorced. The trial court awarded the pre-embryos to the husband and the Court of Appeals affirmed this decision. However, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the pre-embryos should be thawed out and allowed to expire because the dispute had not been resolved within a five year time frame prescribed by the Cryopreservation Agreement.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) involves testing for specific genetic conditions prior to the implantation of an embryo in the uterine wall. This form of genetic screening has been made possible by the growth of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) technology, which allows for the early stages of development to occur in a laboratory dish rather than in vivo. The purpose of PGD is to identify what are considered to be abnormal embryos in order to select the most desirable embryos for implantation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

A.Z. v. B.Z. [Brief] (2000)

The Massachusetts Supreme Court in a case of first impression decided that a prior written agreement between a husband and wife regarding the disposition of frozen embryos in the event of a divorce was unenforceable. This was the first case to reject the presumption that written agreements to conduct in vitro fertilization practices were binding. The court would not force the husband to become a parent merely because he signed a consent form that would have awarded the frozen embryos to his wife in the event of marital separation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Abortion

Abortion is the removal of the embryo or fetus from the womb, before birth can occur-either naturally or by induced labor. Prenatal development occurs in three stages: the zygote, or fertilized egg; the embryo, from post-conception to eight weeks; and the fetus, from eight weeks after conception until the baby is born. After abortion, the infant does not and cannot live. Spontaneous abortion is the loss of the infant naturally or accidentally, without the will of the mother. It is more commonly referred to as miscarriage.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

Amniocentesis Prior to 1980

The extraembryonic membranes that surround and originate from the embryos of vertebrates such as birds, reptiles, and mammals are crucial to their development. They are integral to increasing the surface area of the uterus, forming the chorion (which in turn produces the placenta) and the amnion, respectively. The amnion will ultimately surround the embryo in a fluid-filled amniotic cavity. This amniotic fluid, which cushions and protects the fetus and helps prevent the onset of labor, is sampled in amniocentesis to screen for genetic diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

Anencephaly

Anencephaly is an open neural tube defect, meaning that part of the neural tube does not properly close or that it has reopened during early embryogenesis. An embryo with anencephaly develops without the top of the skull, but retains a partial skull, including the face. Anencephaly is one of the most common birth defects of the neural tube, occurring at a rate of approximately one in one thousand human pregnancies. The condition can be caused by environmental exposure to chemicals, dietary deficiencies, or genetic mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

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

In the Womb: Identical Twins (2009), by National Geographic

National Geographic's documentary In the Womb: Identical Twins focuses on the prenatal development of human identical twins. Director Lorne Townend uses three-dimensional (3D) and four-dimensional (4D) ultrasound imaging and microscopy to depict twin development , genetic and epigenetic variations in the fetuses, and methods of fetal survival in the confines of the womb. Artist renditions of scientific data fill in areas of development inaccessible to the imaging tools.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction

Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins (1926-2010)

Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins devoted much of his professional life to obstetric research. Liggins demonstrated that hormones created by the fetus helped initiate labor, rather than hormones originating solely from the mother. Liggins also discovered that cortisol given to pregnant mothers helped delay premature labor, and that it increased the likelihood that premature infants would breathe normally after birth. Prior to cortisol treatment, premature infants often died of respiratory distress syndrome characterized by the inability to inflate immature lungs.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Fetus in Fetu

Fetus in fetu is a rare variety of parasitic twins , where the developmentally abnormal parasitic twin is completely encapsulated within the torso of the otherwise normally developed host twin. In the late eighteenth century, German anatomist Johann Friedrich Meckel was the first to described fetus in fetu, which translates to “fetus within fetus.” Fetus in fetu is thought to result from the unequal division of the totipotent inner cell mass , the mass of cells that is the ancestral precursor to all cells in the body.

Subject: Theories, Disorders, Reproduction

Quickening

Quickening, the point at which a pregnant woman can first feel the movements of the growing embryo or fetus, has long been considered a pivotal moment in pregnancy. Over time, this experience has been used in a variety of contexts, ranging from representing the point of ensoulment to determining whether an abortion was legal to indicating the gender of the unborn baby; philosophy, theology, and law all address the idea of quickening in detail. Beginning with Aristotle, quickening divided the developmental stages of embryo and fetus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

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