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HeLa Cell Line
The HeLa cell line was the first immortal human cell line that George Otto Gey, Margaret Gey, and Mary Kucibek first isolated from Henrietta Lacks and developed at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951. An immortal human cell line is a cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the human from which they originated. Scientists use immortal human cell lines in their research to investigate how cells function in humans.
Subject: Technologies, Experiments, People, Ethics
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.
Max Ludwig Henning Delbruck (1906–1981)
Max Ludwig Henning Delbrick applied his knowledge of theoretical physics to biological systems such as bacterial viruses called bacteriophages, or phages, and gene replication during the twentieth century in Germany and the US. Delbrück demonstrated that bacteria undergo random genetic mutations to resist phage infections. Those findings linked bacterial genetics to the genetics of higher organisms. In the mid-twentieth century, Delbrück helped start the Phage Group and Phage Course in the US, which further organized phage research.
The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine
The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine was created by Maurice Hilleman in 1971 at the Merck Institute of Therapeutic Research, a pharmaceutical company in West Point, Pennsylvania. It combined three separate vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella, common and sometimes fatal diseases. Measles causes a red skin rash and severe fevers that can be fatal. Mumps causes fever and swelling of the salivary glands in the mouth and jaw, while rubella causes milder fevers and skin rashes.
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (1993)
In its 1993 decision Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the US Supreme Court established the Daubert Standard for evaluating the admissibility of scientific knowledge as evidence in US federal courts. When it began in trial court, the case addressed whether or not Bendectin, an anti-nausea medication taken during pregnancy, caused birth defects. However, after the trial court dismissed the case for lack of admissible evidence, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Ernest John Christopher Polge (1926-2006)
Twentieth-century researcher Ernest John Christopher Polge studied the reproductive processes of livestock and determined a method to successfully freeze, thaw, and utilize viable sperm cells to produce offspring in animals. In 1949, Polge identified glycerol as a cryoprotectant, or a medium that enables cells to freeze without damaging their cellular components or functions. Several years later, Polge used glycerol in a freezing process called vitrification, which enabled him to freeze poultry sperm, thaw that sperm, and use it to fertilize vertebrate embryos.
The Debate over DNA Replication Before the Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1953–1957)
Between 1953 and 1957, before the Meselson-Stahl experiment verified semi-conservative replication of DNA, scientists debated how DNA replicated. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick proposed that DNA was composed of two helical strands that wound together in a coil. Their model suggested a replication mechanism, later termed semi-conservative replication, in which parental DNA strands separated and served as templates for the replication of new daughter strands.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1890- )
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is a non-profit research institution that specializes in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology, quantitative biology, and genomics. The organization is located on the shores of Cold Spring Harbor in Laurel Hollow, New York. The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences established the CSHL in 1890, to provide scientists with facilities to research Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory. The first mission of CSHL was biological science education.
Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin (1842-1921)
Petr Kropotkin proposed the theory of Pleistocene ice age, alternative theories of evolution based on embryology, and he advocated anarchist and communist social doctrines in Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He traveled in eastern Siberia and Manchuria from 1863 until 1867, and his subsequent publications about that area's geography became authoritative until the middle of the twentieth century.
The US President's Council on Bioethics (2001-2009)
The US President's Council on Bioethics was an organization headquartered in Washington D.C. that was chartered to advise then US President George W. Bush on ethical issues related to biomedical science and technology. In November 2001, US President George W. Bush created the President's Council on Bioethics (PCB). Convened during a nationwide cloning and embryonic stem cell research debate, the Council stated that it worked to address arguments about ethics from many different perspectives.
Subject: Organizations, Legal, Ethics
Harald zur Hausen (1936–)
Harald zur Hausen studied viruses and discovered that certain strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease, can cause cervical cancer, in Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Zur Hausen spent his research career identifying the viruses that cause diseases, particularly cancer-causing viruses (oncoviruses). He primarily focused on HPV and cervical cancer. Zur Hausen hypothesized that HPV was cancerous and discovered that two strains, HPV 16 and 18, caused cervical cancer.
Categorization of Conservative, Semi-Conservative, and Dispersive DNA Replication Theories (1953–1956)
In 1956, Gunther Stent, a scientist at the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, California, coined the terms conservative, semi-conservative, and dispersive to categorize the prevailing theories about how DNA replicated. Stent presented a paper with Max Delbrück titled “On the Mechanism of DNA Replication” at the McCollum-Pratt Symposium at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In response to James Watson and Francis Crick’s proposed structure of DNA in 1953, scientists debated how DNA replicated.
The Development of Silicone Breast Implants for Use in Breast Augmentation Surgeries in the United States
In the 1960s, two plastic surgeons from the United States, Thomas Dillon Cronin and Frank Judson Gerow, collaborated with the Dow Corning Corporation, which specialized in silicone products, to create the first silicone breast implant. Surgeons used the implant, named the Cronin-Gerow implant, to improve the look of a woman’s breasts, by correcting for asymmetry, augmenting the size, or creating a more uplifted profile.
Subject: Technologies, Processes
Menstrual tampons are feminine hygiene devices, usually made of absorbent cotton, that are temporarily inserted into the vagina for absorbing a woman’s blood during menstruation. In 1931, Earl Haas invented the menstrual tampon most commonly used in the twenty-first century. Later, Gertrude Tendrich produced the first commercial tampon brand, Tampax, using Haas’s patented design. Tendrich and Haas’s tampon was made of tightly compacted absorbent cotton, shaped like a bullet, and had a string attached at the base that allowed for easy removal from the woman’s body.
Horatio Robinson Storer (1830–1922)
Horatio Robinson Storer was a surgeon and anti-abortion activist in the 1800s who worked in the field of women’s reproductive health and led the Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion in the US. Historians credit Storer as being one of the first physicians to distinguish gynecology, the study of diseases affecting women and their reproductive health, as a separate subject from obstetrics, the study of pregnancy and childbirth.
Subject: People, Reproduction, Religion
Fetal programming, or prenatal programming, is a concept that suggests certain events occurring during critical points of pregnancy may cause permanent effects on the fetus and the infant long after birth. The concept of fetal programming stemmed from the fetal origins hypothesis, also known as Barker’s hypothesis, that David Barker proposed in 1995 at the University of Southampton in Southampton, England.
Subject: Processes, Theories, Reproduction
“Explaining Recent Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy in the United States: The Contribution of Abstinence and Improved Contraceptive Use” (2007), by John S. Santelli, Laura Duberstein Lindberg, Lawrence B. Finer, and Susheela Singh
In “Explaining Recent Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy in the United States: The Contribution of Abstinence and Improved Contraceptive Use,” hereafter “Explaining Recent Declines,” researchers John S. Santelli, Laura Duberstein Lindberg, Lawrence B. Finer, and Susheela Singh discuss what led to the major decline in US adolescent pregnancy rates from 1995 to 2002. Working with the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, they found that the decline in US adolescent pregnancy rates between 1995 and 2002 was primarily due to improved contraceptive use.
Subject: Publications, Reproduction
Gardasil HPV Vaccination Series
In 2006, United States pharmaceutical company Merck released the Gardasil vaccination series, which protected recipients against four strains of Human Papillomaviruses, or HPV. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection which may be asymptomatic or cause symptoms such as genital warts, and is linked to cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, head, neck, and face cancers.
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.
Subject: People, Reproduction
Zidovudine or Azidothymidine (AZT)
In 1964, Jerome Horwitz synthesized the drug zidovudine, commonly abbreviated ZDV, otherwise known as azidothymidine, or AZT, at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan. Horwitz and his colleagues originally developed zidovudine to treat cancers caused by retroviruses. In 1983, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine recipients Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier discovered a new retrovirus, the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France.
John Langdon Down (1828–1896)
John Langdon Down studied medicine in England in the nineteenth century and was one of the first people to develop a complete description of the disorder that would later be known as Trisomy 21, or Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome is a condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome, which may cause a person to be born with certain impaired learning abilities and physical features such as a short neck, flattened face, and almond-shaped eyes.
George Otto Gey (1899-1970)
George Otto Gey was a scientist in the US who studied cells and cultivated the first continuous human cell line in 1951. Gey derived the cells for that cell line, called the HeLa cell line, from a woman called Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who had cervical cancer. Cell lines are a cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the organism from which they originated. Gey developed new techniques for in vitro, or laboratory-based, maintenance of organs and hormonal tissue, created new methods for cell cultivation, and researched nutritional media, or cell food.
Phalloplasty is a type of surgery that takes existing skin, tissue, and nerves from surrounding areas on a patient’s body to repair or form a neophallus, or a new penis structure. In 1946, Harold Gillies, a plastic surgeon who practiced in England, performed one of the first modern phalloplasties that entailed creating an entire neophallus for a transsexual, called transgender as of 2022, man in London, England. The reconstructive need for phalloplasties started as a result of treating blast wounds during World War I and World War II.
Subject: Technologies, Reproduction
"The Role of Urethra in Female Orgasm" (1950), by Ernst Gräfenberg
In 1950, physician and researcher Ernst Gräfenberg published “The Role of Urethra in Female Orgasm,” in the International Journal of Sexology. The article was one of the first to mention the area in the anterior, or front, vaginal wall colloquially called the G-spot. In the article, Gräfenberg acknowledges that many females experience problems related to sexual satisfaction, and he argues that researchers and physicians of the time did not know enough information about the anatomical mechanisms and localization of the female orgasm to help them.
Subject: Publications, Reproduction, Processes
Ernst Gräfenberg (1881–1957)
Ernst Gräfenberg was a physician and researcher who studied sexology, the study of human sexuality, in both Germany and the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. Gräfenberg researched the use of intrauterine devices as a form of contraception, and he developed the Gräfenberg ring. The Gräfenberg ring was one of the first intrauterine devices that effectively prevented pregnancy without causing infection, and it became the forerunner of all modern intrauterine devices, or IUDs. Gräfenberg also studied the role of the urethra in female orgasm.
Subject: People, Technologies, Reproduction