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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

Matthew Howard Kaufman (1942–2013)

Matthew Kaufman was a professor of anatomy at the University of Edinburgh, in Edinburgh, UK, who specialized in mouse anatomy, development, and embryology during the late twentieth century. According to the The Herald, he was the first, alongside his colleague Martin Evans, to isolate and culture embryonic stem cells. Researchers initially called those cells Evans-Kaufman cells. In 1992, Kaufman published The Atlas of Mouse Development, a book that included photographs of mice development and mice organs over time.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Minnie Joycelyn Elders (1933–)

Minnie Joycelyn Elders, known as Joycelyn Elders, is a pediatrician and professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1953, Elders began to work with the US Army, where she trained as a physical therapist, being the only African American woman in her training class. Elders eventually became a medical doctor in 1956, specializing in pediatric endocrinology. In 1993, then US President Bill Clinton appointed Elders as the Surgeon General for the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which she served as until 1994.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

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

Nikolai Ivanovic Vavilov (1887-1943)

Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov proposed theories of plant genetic diversity and participated in the political debate about genetics in Soviet Russia in the early twentieth century. Vavilov collected plant species around the world, building one of the first and most comprehensive seed banks, and he spent much of his life researching plant breeding and genetics. Vavilov also developed a theory of the historical centers of origin of cultivated plants. Vavilov spent most of his scientific career in Russia, although he studied abroad and traveled extensively.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Katsuma Dan on his first meeting with Victor Heilbrunn

Katsuma Dan reflects on his first meeting with Dr. Victor Heilbrunn at the University of Pennsylvania in December 1930. Recorded at the University of Washington, Friday Harbor group in 1978.

Format: Audio

Subject: People

“Women’s Right to Know” Informed Consent Informational Materials

As of 2021, twenty-eight US states have informed consent laws for abortion, which is a medical procedure to terminate pregnancy, often called Women’s Right to Know laws. Those laws often require the state government to develop informational materials that healthcare providers must give to women before an abortion. Informational materials generally include information about the process of fetal development, accompanied by illustrations or pictures, risks and effects of abortion, and alternatives to abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Using Digital PCR to Detect Fetal Chromosomal Aneuploidy in Maternal Blood (2007)

In 2007, Dennis Lo and his colleagues used digital polymerase chain reaction or PCR to detect trisomy 21 in maternal blood, validating the method as a means to detect fetal chromosomal aneuploidies, or an abnormal number of chromosomes in a cell. The team conducted their research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, and at the Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

State v. New Times, INC (1973)

In the 1973 case State v. New Times, INC, the Arizona Court of Appeals in Phoenix, Arizona, ruled that Arizona Revised Statutes 13-211, 13-212, and 13-213, collectively called the Arizona abortion statutes, were unconstitutional. The statues made it illegal for anyone to receive, provide, or advertise abortion services. The Arizona Court of Appeals reviewed a case in which a city court in Tempe, Arizona, convicted the New Times, a newspaper headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, of advertising abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Outreach

David Wildt's Domestic Cat and Cheetah Experiments (1978-1983)

David Wildt's cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) research from 1978-1983 became the foundation for the use of embryological techniques in endangered species breeding programs. The cheetah is a member of the cat family (Felidae), which includes thirty-seven species. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) all Felidae species are currently threatened or endangered, with the exception of the domestic cat (Felinus catus).

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Stuart v. Camnitz (2014)

In Stuart v. Camnitz, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of a North Carolina District Court that declared a controversial ultrasound mandate for abortions unconstitutional in 2014. The ultrasound mandate was a part of the Woman’s Right to Know Act introduced in North Carolina in 2011, which placed several restrictions on abortion care providers in the state.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

“Mothers’ Anxiety During Pregnancy Is Associated with Asthma in Their Children” (2009), by Hannah Cookson, Raquel Granell, Carol Joinson, Yoav Ben-Shlomo, and A. John Henderson

In 2009, A. John Henderson and colleagues published “Mothers’ Anxiety During Pregnancy Is Associated with Asthma in Their Children,” hereafter, “Mothers’ Anxiety,” in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Previous studies had shown that maternal stress during pregnancy affects children’s health during childhood. The researchers explored the association of asthma in children with maternal anxiety during pregnancy. The cause of asthma is often unknown.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Reproduction, Publications, Disorders

"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

“The Emergence of Developmental Psychopathology” (1984), by Dante Cicchetti

In 1984, Dante Cicchetti published “The Emergence of Developmental Psychopathology,” an article in which he argued that the previously amorphous study of developmental psychopathology was emerging as a unified discipline. According to Cicchetti, developmental psychopathology describes an interdisciplinary field that studies abnormalities in psychological function that can arise during human development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Endoscopic Fetoscopy

Endoscopic fetoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed during pregnancy that allows physicians to view the fetus in-utero. Physicians use endoscopic fetoscopy to evaluate, diagnose, and treat fetal abnormalities. Physicians use an endoscope, or a thin, flexible surgical device with a light attached to its end, to perform endoscopic fetoscopy procedures. In 1954, Björn Westin performed the first endoscopic fetoscopy in Sweden.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

1901 Arizona Comstock Law

In 1901, the Arizona Territorial Legislature codified territorial law that illegalized advertising, causing, or performing abortions anywhere in Arizona. The 1901 code, in conjunction with the federal Comstock Act, regulated the advertisement and accessibility of abortion services and contraceptives in Arizona. The Federal Comstock Act of 1873 had illegalized the distribution of material on contraceptives and abortions through the US Postal Services by labeling contraceptive and abortive material as obscene.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Gregory Goodwin Pincus (1903-1967)

Gregory Goodwin Pincus, one of the original researchers responsible for the development of the first oral contraceptive pill, was born in Woodbine, New Jersey, on 19 April 1903 to Russian Jewish parents. In 1924 Pincus received his BS degree from Cornell University, and in 1927 he received his MS and PhD from Harvard University, having studied under William Ernest Castle and William John Crozier.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado (1964- )

Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado is a Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine and is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, 24 February 1964, Sánchez Alvarado left his home to pursue education in the United States, where he received a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and chemistry from Vanderbilt University in 1986 and a Doctorate in pharmacology and cell biophysics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 1992.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Robert William Briggs (1911-1983)

Robert William Briggs was a prolific developmental biologist. However, he is most identified with the first successful cloning of a frog by nuclear transplantation. His later studies focused on the problem of how genes influence development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Leonard Hayflick (1928- )

Leonard Hayflick studied the processes by which cells age during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the United States. In 1961 at the Wistar Institute in the US, Hayflick researched a phenomenon later called the Hayflick Limit, or the claim that normal human cells can only divide forty to sixty times before they cannot divide any further. Researchers later found that the cause of the Hayflick Limit is the shortening of telomeres, or portions of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that slowly degrade as cells replicate.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

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

“Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Healthcare” (2014), by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective

In 2014, the Center for Reproductive Rights, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health released a co-authored report titled “Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Healthcare,” hereafter “Reproductive Injustice.” In “Reproductive Injustice,” the organizations evaluate trends in the US federal system concerning racial and gender discrimination in sexual and reproductive healthcare.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Organizations, Outreach, Legal