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Neural Tube Defects (NTD): Folic Acid and Pregnancy
In the US, one in 1000 births is affected by neural tube defects (NTD). A neural tube defect is a birth defect involving the malformation of body features associated with the brain and spinal cord. An NTD originates from and is characterized by incomplete closure of the neural tube, which is an organizer and precursor of the central nervous system.
Subject: Disorders, Reproduction
“Fetal Surgery” (1996), by Michael R. Harrison
In 1996, Michael R. Harrison published “Fetal Surgery” in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In the article, Harrison describes the importance of fetal surgery and the techniques used to correct defects in fetuses. As a fetus develops in the uterus, it can develop abnormalities that may become debilitating or fatal. Harrison discusses cases that show how physicians can use fetal surgery to repair such abnormalities, including obstructions in the heart or urinary tract, or organs or muscles whose malformations impair function.
Subject: Reproduction, Publications
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.
Subject: Reproduction, Disorders
Humanae Vitae (1968), by Pope Paul VI
The "Humanae Vitae," meaning "Of Human Life" and subtitled "On the Regulation of Birth," was an encyclical promulgated in Rome, Italy, on 25 July 1968 by Pope Paul VI. This encyclical defended and reiterated the Roman Catholic Church's stance on family planning and reproductive issues such as abortion, sterilization, and contraception. The document continues to have a controversial reputation today, as its statements regarding birth control strike many Catholics as unreasonable.
Subject: Religion, Reproduction
John Hunter (1728–1793)
John Hunter studied human reproductive anatomy, and in eighteenth century England, performed one of the earliest described cases of artificial insemination. Hunter dissected thousands of animals and human cadavers to study the structures and functions of organ systems. Much of his anatomical studies focused on the circulatory, digestive, and reproductive systems. He helped to describe the exchange of blood between pregnant women and their fetuses. Hunter also housed various natural collections, as well as thousands of preserved specimens from greater than thirty years of anatomy work.
Subject: People, Reproduction
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.
Subject: Disorders, Ethics, Reproduction
“HeLa Cells 50 Years On: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” (2002), by John R. Masters
Published in 2002, prostate cancer researcher John R. Masters authored a review article HeLa Cells 50 Years On: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly that described the historical and contemporary context of the HeLa cell line in research in Nature Reviews Cancer. The HeLa cell line was one of the first documented immortal cell lines, isolated from cervical cancer patient Henrietta Lacks in 1951 at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. An immortal cell line is a cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the original host.
The Fruits of Philosophy (1832), by Charles Knowlton
In 1832, Charles Knowlton published The Fruits of Philosophy, a pamphlet advocating for controlling reproduction and detailing methods for preventing pregnancy. Originally published anonymously in Massachusetts, The Fruits of Philosophy was an illegal book because United States law prohibited the publishing of immoral and obscene material, which included information about contraception. In The Fruits of Philosophy, Knowlton detailed recipes for contraceptives and advocated for controlling reproduction.
The Origin of Species: "Chapter Thirteen: Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs" (1859), by Charles R. Darwin
Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs is the thirteenth chapter of Charles Darwin's book The Origin of Species, first published in England in 1859. The book details part of Darwin's argument for the common ancestry of life and natural selection as the cause of speciation. In this chapter, Darwin summarizes the evidence for evolution by connecting observations of development in organisms to the processes of natural selection.
The Effects of Diethylstilbestrol on Embryonic Development
Estrogen plays a key role in the regulation of gene transcription. This is accomplished by its ability to act as a ligand and to bind to specific estrogen receptor (ER) molecules, such as ERα and ERβ, which act as nuclear transcription factors. There are three major nuclear estrogen receptor protein domains: the estrogen binding domain, the protein interaction domain, and the DNA binding domain.
“Causes of Death Among Stillbirths” (2011), by Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network Writing Group
In December 2011, the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network, or SCRN, published the article “Causes of Death Among Stillbirths” in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors of the article investigate the causes of stillbirth and possible reasons for the racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities in stillbirth rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, stillbirth is the death of a fetus at twenty or more weeks during pregnancy.
Catherine DeAngelis (1940– )
In the late-twentieth century in the United States, Catherine DeAngelis was a pediatric physician, researcher, and editor of multiple medical journals. During her time with the Journal of the American Medical Association, DeAngelis became the journal’s first female editor. At Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, she studied how physician-nurse interactions affected patient care, how immunizations and adolescent pregnancy affected children, and how medications affected men and women differently.
"The Developmental Capacity of Nuclei Taken from Intestinal Epithelium Cells of Feeding Tadpoles" (1962), by John B. Gurdon
In 1962 researcher John Bertrand Gurdon at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, conducted a series of experiments on the developmental capacity of nuclei taken from intestinal epithelium cells of feeding tadpoles. In the experiments, Gurdon conducted nuclear transplantation, or cloning, of differentiated cells, or cells that have already specialized to become one cell type or another, in tadpoles. Gurdon's experiment showed that differentiated adult cells could be induced to an undifferentiated state, where they could once again become multiple cell types.
Bernadine Healy (1944–2011)
During the twentieth century in the United States, Bernadine Patricia Healy was a cardiologist who served as the first female director of the National Institutes of Health or NIH and the president of both the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. Healy conducted research on the different manifestations of heart attacks in women compared to men. At the time, many physicians underdiagnosed and mistreated coronary heart disease in women. Healy's research illustrated how coronary heart disease affected women.
Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome)
As of 2022, Trisomy 21 is the most common type of trisomy, or a condition where the person has three instead of the normal two copies of one of the chromosomes. Trisomy occurs when abnormal cell division takes place leading to an extra copy of a chromosome. That extra copy of chromosome 21 results in a congenital disorder called Down syndrome, which is characterized by a cluster of specific traits including intellectual disabilities, atypical facial appearance, and a high risk of heart disease.
Subject: Reproduction, Disorders, Ethics
The Silent Scream (1984), by Bernard Nathanson, Crusade for Life, and American Portrait Films
The Silent Scream is an anti-abortion film released in 1984 by American Portrait Films, then based in Brunswick, Ohio. The film was created and narrated by Bernard Nathanson, an obstetrician and gynecologist from New York, and it was produced by Crusade for Life, an evangelical anti-abortion organization. In the video, Nathanson narrates ultrasound footage of an abortion of a twelve-week-old fetus, claiming that the fetus opened its mouth in what Nathanson calls a silent scream during the procedure.
Subject: Outreach, Reproduction
“Abstinence Education: Assessing the Accuracy and Effectiveness of Federally Funded Programs” (2008), by Government Accountability Office
On 23 April 2008, the US Government Accountability Office, or GAO, released a report titled, “Abstinence Education: Assessing the Accuracy and Effectiveness of Federally Funded Programs,” hereafter “Abstinence Education,” in which it investigated the scientific accuracy and effectiveness of abstinence-only education programs sanctioned by individual states and the US Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS. GAO is a government agency whose role is to examine the use of public funds, evaluate federal programs and activities, and provide nonpartisan support to the US Congress.
Subject: Legal, Reproduction, Publications
Charles Bonnet (1720-1793)
Charles Bonnet was a naturalist and philosopher in the mid eighteenth century. His most important contribution to embryology was the discovery of parthenogenesis in aphids, proving that asexual reproduction of offspring was possible. In his later life, he was an outspoken defender of the theory of generation now known as preformationism, which stated that offspring exist prior to conception preformed in the germ cell of one of their parents.
The Germ-Plasm: a Theory of Heredity (1893), by August Weismann
Friedrich Leopold August Weismann published Das
Keimplasma: eine Theorie der Vererbung (The Germ-Plasm: a
Theory of Heredity, hereafter The Germ-Plasm) while
working at the University of Freiburg in Freiburg, Germany in 1892.
William N. Parker, a professor in the University College of South
Wales and Monmouthshire in Cardiff, UK, translated The
Germ-Plasm into English in 1893. In The Germ-Plasm,
Weismann proposed a theory of heredity based on the concept of the
Subject: Publications, Theories
Gastrulation in Mus musculus (common house mouse)
As mice embryos develop, they undergo a stage of development called gastrulation. The hallmark of vertebrate gastrulation is the reorganization of the inner cell mass (ICM) into the three germ layers: ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. Mammalian embryogenesis occurs within organisms; therefore, gastrulation was originally described in species with easily observable embryos. For example, the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) is the most widely used organism to study gastrulation because the large embryos develop inside a translucent membrane.
Subject: Processes, Experiments
Inducing Fertilization and Development in Sand Dollars
Sand dollars are common marine invertebrates in the phylum Echinodermata and share the same class (Echinoidea) as sea urchins. They have served as model laboratory organisms for such embryologists as Frank Rattray Lillie and Ernest Everett Just. Both Lillie and Just used Echinarachnius parma for their studies of egg cell membranes and embryo development at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in the early 1900s.
Apoptosis in Embryonic Development
Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is a mechanism in embryonic development that occurs naturally in organisms. Apoptosis is a different process from cell necrosis, which is uncontrolled cell death usually after infection or specific trauma. As cells rapidly proliferate during development, some of them undergo apoptosis, which is necessary for many stages in development, including neural development, reduction in egg cells (oocytes) at birth, as well as the shaping of fingers and vestigial organs in humans and other animals. Sydney Brenner, H. Robert Horvitz, and John E.
Charles Knowlton (1800–1850)
Charles Knowlton was a physician and author who advocated for increased access to information about reproduction in the nineteenth century in the US. Throughout his early medical education, Knowlton was particularly interested in anatomy and on several instances robbed graves for bodies to dissect. In 1832, Knowlton authored The Fruits of Philosophy, a pamphlet that contained detailed descriptions of the reproductive organs and information on conception and methods to control reproduction.
Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942)
In 1942, the United States Supreme Court Case of Skinner v. Oklahoma ruled that states could not legally sterilize those inmates of prisons deemed habitual criminals. Skinner v. Oklahoma was about the case of Jack Skinner, an inmate of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, who was subject to sterilization under the Oklahoma Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act of 1935. The case, decided on 1 June 1942, determined that state laws were unconstitutional if those laws enabled states to forcibly sterilize inmates deemed to be habitual criminals.
City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (1983)
In the 1983 case City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health the US Supreme Court ruled that certain requirements of the city of Akron’s “Regulation on Abortion” ordinance violated women’s rights to abortions. Despite the legalization of abortion in the 1973, with the US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, individual states passed legislation regulating certain aspects of abortion.