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Ethics of Designer Babies

A designer baby is a baby genetically engineered in vitro for specially selected traits, which can vary from lowered disease-risk to gender selection. Before the advent of genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization (IVF), designer babies were primarily a science fiction concept. However, the rapid advancement of technology before and after the turn of the twenty-first century makes designer babies an increasingly real possibility.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, Reproduction

The Organism as a Whole: From a Physicochemical Viewpoint (1916), by Jacques Loeb

Jacques Loeb published The Organism as a Whole: From a Physicochemical Viewpoint in 1916. Loeb's goal for the book was to refute the claim that physics and chemistry were powerless to completely explain whole organisms and their seemingly goal-oriented component processes. Loeb used his new account of science and scientific explanation, marshaling evidence from his embryological researches, to show that physicochemical biology completely and correctly explained whole organisms and their component processes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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

Hamburger-Hamilton Staging Series (1951)

In 1951 Viktor Hamburger and Howard Hamilton created an embryonic staging series from a combination of photographs and drawings from other researchers. The Hamburger-Hamilton stages are a sequence of images depicting 46 chronological stages in chick development. The images begin with a fertilized egg and end with a fully developed chick. The Hamburger-Hamilton staging series was produced in order to replace a previous chick staging series created in 1900. The earlier attempt lacked specific details and staged the chick embryo by using only morphological characteristics.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Pre- and Post-natal Growth Deficiencies and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) during pregnancy can inhibit prenatal growth, resulting in fetuses that are small for gestational age. Those prenatal growth deficiencies can have lasting consequences for early childhood development and are often reflected by low weight and stature. Those alcohol-induced pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies ("failure to thrive") are among the abnormal developmental criteria used to identify Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is characterized by minor facial abnormalities and deficiencies of the central nervous system as well.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

"On the Nature of the Process of Fertilization and the Artificial Production of Normal Larvae (Plutei) From the Unfertilized Eggs of the Sea Urchin" (1899), by Jacques Loeb

Jacques Loeb developed procedures to make embryos from unfertilized sea urchin eggs in 1899. Loeb called the procedures "artificial parthenogenesis," and he introduced them and his results in "On the Nature of the Process of Fertilization and the Artificial Production of Norma Larvae (Plutei) from the Unfertilized Eggs of the Sea Urchin" in an 1899 issue of The American Journal of Physiology. In 1900 Loeb elaborated on his experiments.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Circulatory Changes at Birth

When placental mammals are born their circulatory systems undergo radical changes as the newborns are prepared for independent life. The lungs are engaged, becoming the primary source of fresh oxygen, replacing the placental barrier as a means for blood-gas exchange.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

William Harvey (1578-1657)

Renowned physician and scientist William Harvey is best known for his accurate description of how blood circulates through the body. While his published work on the circulation of blood is considered the most important of his academic life, Harvey also made significant contributions to embryology with the publication of his book Exercitationes de Generatione Animalium in 1651. In this book he established several theories that would set the stage for modern embryology and addressed many embryological issues including conception, embryogenesis, and spontaneous generation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Artificial Parthenogenesis and Fertilization (1913), by Jacques Loeb

Jacques Loeb is best known for his embryological work investigating parthenogenesis in invertebrates. Artificial Parthenogenesis and Fertilization is a revised and English-translated work from his earlier book, Die chemische Entwicklungserregung des tierischen Eies (1900). Artificial Parthenogenesis describes Loeb's many and varied methodical experiments to initiate egg development without fertilization by sperm. As is true with much of science, some of Loeb's experiments were successful and many were not.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

De Formatione Ovi et Pulli (1621), by Girolamo Fabrici

The embryological treatise De formatione ovi et pulli (On the Formation of the Egg and of the Chick) was written by anatomist and embryologist Girolamo Fabrici and published in Padua posthumously in 1621. The book was edited by Joahannes Prevotius and is separated into two parts that describe Fabrici's observations and assumptions on embryology and combine the traditional knowledge of his predecessors with his own first-hand anatomical observations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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

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

Johann Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)

Johann Gregor Mendel studied plants and their patterns of inheritance in Austria during the nineteenth century. Mendel experimented with the pea plant, Pisum, and his publication, 'Versuche uber Pflanzenhybriden' (“Experiments on Plant Hybridization”), published in 1866, revolutionized theories of trait inheritance. Mendel’s discoveries relating to factors, traits, and how they pass between generations of organisms enabled scientists in the twentieth century to build theories of genetics.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Embryonic Sex Differentiation and Sex Hormones (1947), by Carl R. Moore

In 1947, Carl Richard Moore, a researcher at the University of Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois, wrote Embryonic Sex Differentiation and Sex Hormones, which was published in the same year as a first-edition monograph. In the book, Moore argues that regulation of sex differentiation in mammals is not controlled by sex hormones secreted by embryonic sex organs (gonads), but is controlled by non-hormonal genetic factors.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Experiments

A plant genetically modified that accumulates Pb is especially promising for phytoremediation (2003), by Carmina Gisbert et al.

In 2003, Carmina Gisbert and her research team produced a tobacco plant that could remove lead from soil. To do so, they inserted a gene from wheat plants that produces phytochelatin synthase into a shrub tobacco plant (Nicotiana glauca) to increase N. glauca's absorption and tolerance of toxic metals, particularly lead and cadmium. Gisbert and her team aimed to genetically modify a plant so that it could be used for phytoremediation- using plants to remove toxic substances from the soil.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Technologies

Aristotle (384-322 BCE)

Aristotle studied developing organisms, among other things, in ancient Greece, and his writings shaped Western philosophy and natural science for greater than two thousand years. He spent much of his life in Greece and studied with Plato at Plato's Academy in Athens, where he later established his own school called the Lyceum. Aristotle wrote greater than 150 treatises on subjects ranging from aesthetics, politics, ethics, and natural philosophy, which include physics and biology. Less than fifty of Aristotle's treatises persisted into the twenty-first century.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Human Genome Project (1990-2003)

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international scientific effort to sequence the entire human genome, that is, to produce a map of the base pairs of DNA in the human chromosomes, most of which do not vary among individuals. The HGP started in the US in 1990 as a public effort and included scientists and laboratories located in France, Germany, Japan, China, and the United Kingdom.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Sidney Q. Cohlan (1915-1999)

Sidney Q. Cohlan studied birth defects in the US during the twentieth century. Cohlan helped to discover that if a pregnant woman ate too much vitamin A her fetus faced a higher than normal risk of teratogenic effects, such as cleft palate. A teratogen is a substance that causes malformation of a developing organism. Cohlan also identified the teratogenic effects of several other substances including a lack of normal magnesium and prenatal exposure to the antibiotic tetracycline.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Dorothy Andersen (1901–1963)

Dorothy Andersen studied cystic fibrosis in the United States during the early 1900s. In 1935, Andersen discovered lesions in the pancreas of an infant during an autopsy, which led her to classify a condition she named cystic fibrosis of the pancreas. In 1938, Andersen became the first to thoroughly describe symptoms of the medical condition cystic fibrosis.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

“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

“Of Pregnancy and Progeny” (1980), by Norbert Freinkel

Norbert Freinkel’s lecture Of Pregnancy and Progeny was published by the American Diabetes Association’s journal Diabetes in December of 1980. In the lecture, Freinkel argued that pregnancy changes the way that the female body breaks down and uses food. Through experiments that involved pregnant women as well as infants, Freinkel established the body’s maternal metabolism and how it affects both the mother and the infant. Freinkel’s main focus of research in the latter part of his life was diabetes, specifically in pregnant women.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Zhang Lizhu (1921- )

Zhang Lizhu is a Chinese gynecologist and researcher. For most of her career, she worked in the Peking Medical College Third Hospital, renamed in 2000, Peking University Third Hospital. There, she led a team of researchers and physicians in the study of human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET) technology. Zhang and her colleagues contributed to the birth of the first test-tube baby in Mainland China in 1988.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

On Growth and Form (1917), by Sir D'Arcy Thompson

Of Sir D'Arcy Thompson's nearly 300 publications, the theoretical treatise On Growth and Form, first published in 1917, remains the principal work for which he is remembered. This substantial book is still in print today, and merited an editorial review and introductory essays by two important twentieth century biologists, John Tyler Bonner and Stephen Jay Gould. Growth and Form was immediately well-received for both its literary style and its scientific significance, as discussed by the biologist Sir Peter Medawar.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications