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Josef Warkany (1902–1992)

Josef Warkany studied the environmental causes of birth defects in the United States in the twentieth century. Warkany was one of the first researchers to show that factors in the environment could cause birth defects, and he helped to develop guidelines for the field of teratology, the study of birth defects. Prior to Warkany’s work, scientists struggled to explain if or how environmental agents could cause birth defects. Warkany demonstrated that a deficiency or excess of vitamin A in maternal nutrition could cause birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Developmental Timeline of Alcohol-Induced Birth Defects

Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) during pregnancy can result in a continuum of embryonic developmental abnormalities that vary depending on the severity, duration, and frequency of exposure of ethanol during gestation. Alcohol is a teratogen, an environmental agent that impacts the normal development of an embryo or fetus. In addition to dose-related concerns, factors such as maternal genetics and metabolism and the timing of alcohol exposure during prenatal development also impact alcohol-related birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

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

Park v. Chessin (1977)

The New York Appellate Court ruled on 11 December 1977 in favor of Steven and Hetty Park and against Herbert Chessin for the wrongful life of the Parks' child. In a wrongful life case, a disabled or sometimes deceased child brings suit against a physician for failing to inform its parents of possible genetic defects, thereby causing harm to the child when born. Park v. Chessin was the first case to rule that medical personnel could be legally responsible for wrongful life. Further cases such as the 1979 case Berman v. Allan and the 1982 case Turpin v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Somites: Formation and Role in Developing the Body Plan

Somites are blocks of mesoderm that are located on either side of the neural tube in the developing vertebrate embryo. Somites are precursor populations of cells that give rise to important structures associated with the vertebrate body plan and will eventually differentiate into dermis, skeletal muscle, cartilage, tendons, and vertebrae. Somites also determine the migratory paths of neural crest cells and of the axons of spinal nerves.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Role of Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) in Alcohol-Induced Craniofacial Abnormalities

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical and neurological developmental abnormalities that vary depending on the timing, duration, and degree of alcohol exposure. Heavy exposure during development may lead to the condition Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), characterized by growth deficits, neurological deficiencies and minor facial abnormalities. Alcohol is a known teratogen, an agent that causes birth defects and acts upon developing embryos through mechanisms that are not yet fully understood.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Niemann-Pick Disease

In 1914 Albert Niemann, a German pediatrician who primarily studied infant metabolism, published a description of an Ashkenazi Jewish infant with jaundice, nervous system and brain impairments, swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy), and an enlarged liver and spleen (hepatosplenomegaly). He reported that these anatomical disturbances resulted in the premature death of the child at the age of eighteen months. After extensively studying the abnormal characteristics of the infant, Niemann came to the conclusion that the disease was a variant of Gaucher's disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)

Virginia Apgar worked as an obstetrical anesthesiologist, administering drugs that reduce women’s pain during childbirth, in the US in the mid-twentieth century. In 1953, Apgar created a scoring system using five easily assessable measurements, including heart rate and breathing rate, to evaluate whether or not infants would benefit from medical attention immediately after birth. Apgar’s system showed that infants who were previously set aside as too sick to survive, despite low Apgar scores, could recover with immediate medical attention.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Bowen v. American Hospital Association (1986)

The 1986 US Supreme Court decision Bowen v. American Hospital Association rejected the federal government's use of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to intervene in a hospital's treatment for neonates born with severe congenital defects. This case set a precedent for the role of government involvement in cases where parents refused consent for care of disabled newborns.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) Gene

The Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) gene was identified in 1989 by geneticist Lap-Chee Tsui and his research team as the gene associated with cystic fibrosis (CF). Tsui's research pinpointed the gene, some mutations to which cause CF, and it revealed the underlying disease mechanism. The CFTR gene encodes a protein in the cell membrane in epithelial tissues and affects multiple organ systems in the human body. Mutations in the CFTR gene cause dysfunctional regulation of cell electrolytes and water content.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

"Vietnam Veterans' Risks for Fathering Babies with Birth Defects" (1984), by J. David Erickson et al.

In 1984, J. David Erickson and his research team published the results of a study titled 'Vietnam Veterans' Risks for Fathering Babies with Birth Defects' that indicated that Vietnam veterans were at increased risk of fathering infants with serious congenital malformations, or birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Tay-Sachs Disease

In 1881 British opthalmologist Warren Tay made an unusual observation. He reported a cherry-red spot on the retina of a one-year-old patient, a patient who was also showing signs of progressive degeneration of the central nervous system as manifested in the child's physical and mental retardation. This cherry-red spot is a characteristic that would eventually come to be associated with metabolic neurological disorders like Sandhoff, GM-1, Niemann-Pick, and, to the credit of Tay, the lysosomal storage disorder known as Tay-Sachs disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Effect of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Radial Glial Cells

Prenatal alcohol (ethanol) exposure can have dramatic effects on the development of the central nervous system (CNS), including morphological abnormalities and an overall reduction in white matter of the brain. The impact of ethanol on neural stem cells such as radial glia (RG) has proven to be a significant cause of these defects, interfering with the creation and migration of neurons and glial cells during development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Neurocristopathies

Neurocristopathies are a class of pathologies in vertebrates,
including humans, that result from abnormal expression, migration,
differentiation, or death of neural crest cells (NCCs) during embryonic development. NCCs are cells
derived from the embryonic cellular structure called the neural crest.
Abnormal NCCs can cause a neurocristopathy by chemically affecting the
development of the non-NCC tissues around them. They can also affect the
development of NCC tissues, causing defective migration or

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome)

John Hilton Edwards first described the symptoms of the genetic disorder known as Trisomy 18 - one of the most common forms of trisomy, which occurs when cells have an extra copy of a chromosome, in humans - in 1960. Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards Syndrome, occurs approximately once per 6000 live births and is second in frequency only to Trisomy 21, or Down's Syndrome, as an autosomal trisomy. Trisomy 18 causes substantial developmental problems in utero.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

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

Stanley Alan Plotkin (1932– )

Stanley Alan Plotkin developed vaccines in the United States during the mid to late twentieth century. Plotkin began his research career at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he studied the rubella virus. In pregnant women, the rubella virus caused congenital rubella syndrome in the fetus, which led to various malformations and birth defects. Using WI-38 cells, a line of cells that originated from tissues of aborted fetuses, Plotkin successfully created RA27/3, a weakened strain of the rubella virus, which he then used to develop a rubella vaccine.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Isotretinoin (Accutane) as a Teratogen

Isotretinoin is a molecule and a byproduct (metabolite) of vitamin A, and in greater than normal amounts in pregnant women, it can cause fetal abnormalities including cleft lips, ear and eye defects, and mental retardation. Isotretinoin is commonly called by its trade name Accutane, and it's a chemical compound derived from vitamin A, or retinoic acid. Doctors prescribe isotretinoin to treat severe acne. For pregnant women, too much vitamin A or isotretinoin can also cause greater than normal rates of stillbirths and fetal disintegrations after the ninth week of gestation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

"Cell Deaths in Normal Vertebrate Ontogeny" (1951), by Alfred Glücksmann

The review article “Cell Deaths in Normal Vertebrate Ontogeny” (abbreviated as “Cell Deaths”) was published in Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophy Society in 1951. The author, Alfred Glücksmann, was a German developmental biologist then working at the Strangeways Research Laboratory, Cambridge, England. In “Cell Deaths,” Glücksmann summarizes observations about cell death in normal vertebrate development that he had compiled from literature published during the first half of the twentieth century.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Nicole Le Douarin and Charles Ordahl's Experiments on the Developmental Lineages of Somites

Through various studies developmental biologists have been able to determine that the muscles of the back, ribs, and limbs derive from somites. Somites are blocks of cells that contain distinct sections that diverge into specific types (axial or limb) of musculature and are an essential part of early vertebrate development. For many years the musculature of vertebrates was known to derive from the somites, but the exact developmental lineage of axial and limb muscle progenitor cells remained a mystery until Nicole Le Douarin and Charles P.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Dandy-Walker Syndrome

Dandy-Walker Syndrome is a congenital brain defect in humans characterized by malformations to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement, and to the ventricles, the fluid-filled cavities that surround the cerebellum. The syndrome is named for physicians Walter Dandy and Arthur Walker who described associated signs and symptoms of the syndrome in the 1900s. The malformations often develop during embryonic stages.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Fetal Surgery

Fetal surgeries are a range of medical interventions performed in utero on the developing fetus of a pregnant woman to treat a number of congenital abnormalities. The first documented fetal surgical procedure occurred in 1963 in Auckland, New Zealand when A. William Liley treated fetal hemolytic anemia, or Rh disease, with a blood transfusion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Ethics, Reproduction

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

The concept Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) refers to a set of birth defects that occur in children born to mothers who abused alcohol during pregnancy. The alcohol-induced defects include pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies, minor facial abnormalities, and damage to the developing central nervous system (CNS).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Methylmercury and Human Embryonic Development

Methylmercury (MeHg) is an organic form of mercury that can damage the developing brains of human fetuses. Women who consume methylmercury during pregnancy can bear children who have neurological issues because methylmercury has toxic effects on the nervous system during embryonic development. During the third week of gestation, the human nervous system begins to form in the embryo. During this gestational period, the embryo's nervous system is particularly susceptible to the influence of neurotoxins like methylmercury that can result in abnormalities.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

"Health Status of Vietnam Veterans III. Reproductive Outcomes and Child Health" (1988), by the US Centers for Disease Control

In 1988, the US Centers for Disease Control published 'Health Status of Vietnam Veterans III. Reproductive Outcomes and Child Health,' which summarized part of the results of the Vietnam Experience Study commissioned by US Congress to assess the health of US Vietnam veterans. They published the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The most heavily used herbicide in the Vietnam, Agent Orange, had previously been found to contain a contaminant linked to birth defects in rats.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications