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Social Implications of Non-Invasive Blood Tests to Determine the Sex of Fetuses

By 2011, researchers in the US had established that non-invasive blood tests can accurately determine the gender of a human fetus as early as seven weeks after fertilization. Experts predicted that this ability may encourage the use of prenatal sex screening tests by women interested to know the gender of their fetuses. As more people begin to use non-invasive blood tests that accurately determine the sex of the fetus at 7 weeks, many ethical questions pertaining to regulation, the consequences of gender-imbalanced societies, and altered meanings of the parent-child relationship.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Ethics, Legal

My Father, My Son (1986), by Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., Elmo Zumwalt III, and John Pekkanen

My Father, My Son is a dual autobiography by father and son Elmo Russell Zumwalt Jr. and Elmo Russell Zumwalt III published by Macmillan Publishing Company in 1986, detailing their experiences during the Vietnam War and particularly with Agent Orange, an herbicide used for defoliation and crop destruction during the war. As a commander in the Navy, Zumwalt Jr. ordered the use of Agent Orange in South Vietnam, where Zumwalt III was stationed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Estrogen and the Menstrual Cycle in Humans

Estrogen is the primary sex hormone in women and it functions during the reproductive menstrual cycle. Women have three major types of estrogen: estrone, estradiol, and estriol, which bind to and activate receptors within the body. Researchers discovered the three types of estrogen over a period of seven years, contributing to more detailed descriptions of the menstrual cycle. Each type of estrogen molecule contains a slightly different arrangement or number of atoms that in turn causes some of the estrogens to be more active than others.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Reproduction

Kass v. Kass (1998)

In Maureen Kass v. Steven Kass (1998), the Court of Appeals of New York in Albany, New York, ruled that the state should generally consider IVF consent forms signed by participants in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) program valid, binding, and enforceable in the event of a dispute. The court indicated that decisions regarding the handling of cryopreserved pre-zygotes, often called preembryos, contained within these consent forms should be upheld.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Twice Born–Stories from the Special Delivery Unit (2015), by the Public Broadcasting Service and Trailblazer Studios

In 2015, the Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS, released a three-part documentary series, Twice Born–Stories from the Special Delivery Unit, hereafter Twice Born, that follows several pregnant women and their experiences with fetal surgery. Trailblazer Studios produced the film, which predominantly features two women, although it includes the stories of many women. The two main women are pregnant with fetuses diagnosed with physical deformities. One woman’s fetus is diagnosed with spina bifida, an incomplete closure of the fetus’s spinal column.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Christian Peeters and Bert Hölldobler's Experiments on Reproduction in Indian Jumping Ants (1991–1994)

Between 1991 and 1994, Christian Peeters and Bert Hölldobler studied the reproductive behaviors of the Indian jumping ant (Harpegnathos saltator), a species native to southern India. They conducted experiments as part of a larger investigation into conflict and reproductive behavior among ants. Peeters and Hölldobler discovered that Indian jumping ant colonies contained both sexually reproductive workers and egg-laying queens. In most other species of ant, the queens are the only sexually reproductive individuals.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Edward Charles Dodds (1899-1973)

Edward Charles Dodds researched the function and effects of natural and artificial hormones on the endocrine system in England during the twentieth century. Though he first worked with hormones such as insulin, Dodds focused on the effects of estrogen in the body and how to replicate those effects with artificial substances. In 1938, along with chemist Robert Robinson, Dodds synthesized the first synthetic estrogen called diethylstilbestrol.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Leonard Colebrook (1883–1967)

Leonard Colebrook was a physician who researched bacteria and infections in England during the twentieth century. In 1936, Colebrook deployed the antibiotic Prontosil to treat puerperal fever, a disorder that results from bacterial infections in the uterine tracts of women after childbirth or abortions. Colebrook also advanced care for burn patients by advocating for the creation of burn units in hospitals and by using antisepsis medication for burn wound infections. Colebrook’s work on treatments for puerperal fever reduced cases of puerperal fever throughout the world.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Symptoms Associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS is one of the most common reproductive conditions in women, and its symptoms include cystic ovaries, menstrual irregularities, and elevated androgen or male sex hormone levels. During the 1930s, Irving Freiler Stein and Michael Leventhal identified the syndrome and its symptoms. Women who experience symptoms of PCOS may also experience secondary symptoms, including infertility and diabetes. Though estimates vary and the causes of the syndrome are not clear as of 2017, PCOS affects approximately ten percent of women of reproductive age.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Roger Sperry’s Split Brain Experiments (1959–1968)

In the 1950s and 1960s, Roger Sperry performed experiments on cats, monkeys, and humans to study functional differences between the two hemispheres of the brain in the United States. To do so he studied the corpus callosum, which is a large bundle of neurons that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Sperry severed the corpus callosum in cats and monkeys to study the function of each side of the brain. He found that if hemispheres were not connected, they functioned independently of one another, which he called a split-brain.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

China's First Baby Conceived through In Vitro Fertilization-Embryonic Transfer, by Zhang Lizhu's Research Team

On 10 March 1988, China's first baby conceived through human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET), commonly referred to as a test-tube baby, was born at the Peking Hospital (PUTH) in Beijing. This birth was reported in numerous media reports as a huge step forward in China's long march to keep pace with global advances in science and technology. Led by gynecologist Zhang Lizhu, the PUTH research team had devoted more than four years to the human IVF-ET project.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840)

In eighteenth century Germany, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach studied how individuals within a species vary, and to explain such variations, he proposed that a force operates on organisms as they develop. Blumenbach used metrical methods to study the history of humans, but he was also a natural historian and theorist. Blumenbach argued for theories of the transformation of species, or the claim that new species can develop from existing forms.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

US Regulatory Response to Thalidomide (1950-2000)

Thalidomide, a drug capable of causing fetal abnormalities (teratogen), has caused greater than ten thousand birth defects worldwide since its introduction to the market as a pharmaceutical agent. Prior to discovering thalidomide's teratogenic effects in the early 1960s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not place regulations on drug approval or monitoring as it later did. By 1962, approximately 20,000 patients in the US had taken thalidomide as part of an unregulated clinical trial before any actions were taken to stop thalidomide's distribution.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Theodora (Theo) Emily Colborn (1927-2014)

Theodora Colborn studied how chemicals affect organisms as they develop and reproduce during the twentieth and twenty first centuries in the US. By the 1940s, researchers had reported that chemicals from agricultural and industrial processes affected how wild organisms developed, but in 1991, Colborn organized the Wingspread Conference in Racine, Wisconsin, at which a group of scientists classed these chemicals as environmentally harmful substances. Colborn and her colleagues called those chemicals endocrine disruptors, as they mimic or block the body's endocrine system.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Hormone Releasing Intrauterine Devices

Hormone releasing intrauterine devices or hormonal IUDs are contraceptive devices placed in a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy by continuously releasing a low dose of certain hormones. Jouri Valter Tapani Luukkainen, a medical researcher at the University of Helsinki, introduced the first hormonal IUD in 1976. Luukkainen’s IUD was a plastic device shaped like a capital T.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

William Thomas Astbury (1898–1961)

William Thomas Astbury studied the structures of fibrous materials, including fabrics, proteins, and deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in England during the twentieth century. Astbury employed X-ray crystallography, a technique in which scientists use X-rays to learn about the molecular structures of materials. Astbury worked at a time when scientists had not yet identified DNA’s structure or function in genes, the genetic components responsible for how organisms develop and reproduce. He was one of the first scientists to use X-ray crystallography to study the structure of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“A Proposed Structure for the Nucleic Acids” (1953) by Linus Pauling and Robert Brainard Corey

In February 1953, Linus Pauling and Robert Brainard Corey, two scientists working at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, proposed a structure for deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in their article “A Proposed Structure for the Nucleic Acids,” henceforth “Nucleic Acids.” In the article, Pauling and Corey suggest a model for nucleic acids, including DNA, that consisted of three nucleic acid strands wound together in a triple helix.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation (1979-1984)

In the legal case In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation of the early 1980s, US military veterans of the Vietnam War sued the US chemical companies that had produced the herbicide Agent Orange, and those companies settled with US veterans out of court. Agent Orange contains dioxin, a chemical later shown to disrupt the hormone system of the body and to cause cancer. As veterans returned to the US from Vietnam, scientists further confirmed that exposure to Agent Orange caused a variety of cancers in veterans and developmental problems in the veterans' children.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

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

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014) by Mary Dore

In 2014, Mary Dore directed the documentary 'She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,' which details the events and accomplishments of the women’s liberation movement from 1966 to the early 1970s in the United States. The film features commentaries from more than thirty activists who worked to advance the women’s movement. Throughout the film, the activists describe the timeline of events that led to women’s improved access to reproductive healthcare and a reduction in sexual discrimination in the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste" from The Ants (1990), by Bert Hölldobler and Edward Osborne Wilson

In 'Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste,' Bert Hölldobler and Edward Osborne Wilson explore the evolutionary origins of worker ants. 'Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste' is the fourth chapter of Hölldobler and Wilson's book, The Ants, which was published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1990. In 'Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste,' Hölldobler and Wilson evaluate various explanations for how a non-reproductive caste of ant evolved.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications