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Molecular Epigenetics and Development: Histone Conformations, DNA Methylation and Genomic Imprinting

Introduced by Conrad Hal Waddington in 1942, the concept of epigenetics gave scientists a new paradigm of thought concerning embryonic development, and since then has been widely applied, for instance to inheritable diseases, molecular technologies, and indeed the human genome as a whole. A genome contains an embedded intricate coding template that provides a means of genetic expression from the initial steps of embryonic development until the death of the organism. Within the genome there are two prominent components: coding (exons) and non-coding (introns) sequences.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Ameisen: Die heimliche Weltmacht (Ants: Nature’s Secret Power) (2004)

Ameisen: Die heimliche Weltmacht (Ants: Nature’s Secret Power) is a nature documentary about ants. Wolfgang Thaler wrote, filmed, and directed the film, which focuses on the work of ant researcher Bert

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Quickening

Quickening, the point at which a pregnant woman can first feel the movements of the growing embryo or fetus, has long been considered a pivotal moment in pregnancy. Over time, this experience has been used in a variety of contexts, ranging from representing the point of ensoulment to determining whether an abortion was legal to indicating the gender of the unborn baby; philosophy, theology, and law all address the idea of quickening in detail. Beginning with Aristotle, quickening divided the developmental stages of embryo and fetus.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

Physician Labeling Rule (2006)

In 2006, the United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, published the “Requirements on Content and Format of Labeling for Human Prescription Drug and Biological Products,” also called the Physician Labeling Rule, to improve the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs and drug products. Within the Physician Labeling Rule, the FDA includes a section titled “Use in Specific Populations” or Section 8, which refers to drugs used by pregnant women, lactating women, and people of reproductive capacity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

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

Images of Embryos in Life Magazine in the 1950s

Embryonic images displayed in Life magazine during the mid-twentieth century serve as a representation of technological advances and the growing public interest in the stages of embryological development. These black-and-white photographs portray skeletal structures and intact bodies of chicken embryos and human embryos and fetuses obtained from collections belonging to universities and medical institutions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Publications, Reproduction

"Drama of Life Before Birth" (1965), by Life Magazine and Lennart Nilsson

Life Magazine's 1965 cover story "Drama of Life Before Birth" featured photographs of embryos and fetuses taken by Swedish photojournalist Lennart Nilsson to document the developmental stages of a human embryo. Included in this article was the first published image of a living fetus inside its mother's womb. Prior to this, embryos and fetuses were observed, studied, and photographed outside of women's bodies as non-living specimens.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Outreach, Reproduction

Sex-determining Region Y in Mammals

The Sex-determining Region Y (Sry in mammals but SRY in humans) is a gene found on Y chromosomes that leads to the development of male phenotypes, such as testes. The Sry gene, located on the short branch of the Y chromosome, initiates male embryonic development in the XY sex determination system. The Sry gene follows the central dogma of molecular biology; the DNA encoding the gene is transcribed into messenger RNA, which then produces a single Sry protein.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

"Experimental Chimeras' Removal of Reproductive Barrier Between Sheep and Goat" (1984), by Sabine Meinecke-Tillmann and Burkhard Meinecke

In 1984 Sabine Meinecke-Tillmann and Burkhard Meinecke published their article "Experimental Chimeras - Removal of Reproductive Barrier Between Sheep and Goat" in Nature. Their study conquered the reproductive barrier between sheep and goats through embryo manipulation. Their article appeared in Nature on the same day that a similar experiment, conducted by Carole Fehilly, Steen Willadsen, and Elizabeth Tucker was published regarding reproductive barriers between sheep and goats.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey (2012)

In the 2012 case Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. David Lakey, a US appeals court ruled as constitutional a Texas law that required abortion providers in the state to show women receiving abortions the ultrasound images of their fetuses. The law also required providers to describe the sounds of the fetuses' nascent hearts. In doing so, the court set precedent that ultrasound readings are necessary medical information for pregnant women seeking abortions, increasing the wait-period for women seeking abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990)

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 established the legal framework that governs infertility treatment, medical services ancillary to infertility treatment such as embryo storage, and all human embryological research performed in the UK. The law also defines a legal concept of the parent of a child conceived with assisted reproductive technologies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction, Ethics

Calvin Bridges’ Experiments on Nondisjunction as Evidence for the Chromosome Theory of Heredity (1913-1916)

From 1913 to 1916, Calvin Bridges performed experiments that indicated genes are found on chromosomes. His experiments were a part of his doctoral thesis advised by Thomas Hunt Morgan in New York, New York. In his experiments, Bridges studied Drosophila, the common fruit fly, and by doing so showed that a process called nondisjunction caused chromosomes, under some circumstances, to fail to separate when forming sperm and egg cells. Nondisjunction, as described by Bridges, caused sperm or egg cells to contain abnormal amounts of chromosomes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

"The Development of the Pronephros during the Embryonic and Early Larval Life of the Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)" (1932), by Rachel L. Carson

Rachel L. Carson studied biology at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and graduated in 1933 with an MA upon the completion of her thesis, The Development of the Pronephros during the Embryonic and Early Larval Life of the Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). The research that Carson conducted for this thesis project grounded many of the claims and observations she presented in her 1962 book, Silent Spring.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Experiments, Publications

Slime mold development video by John Tyler Bonner

This video is composed of a sequence of time lapse films created by John Tyler Bonner in the 1940s to show the life cycle of the cellular slime mold, Dictyostelium discoideum. As only the second person to study slime molds, Bonner frequently encountered audiences who had never heard of, let alone seen, the unusual organism. He therefore decided to create a film to present at seminars in order to introduce his object of study. Bonner created the video for his senior thesis at Harvard University with the help of photographer Frank Smith.

Format: Video

Subject: Organisms

Neurospora crassa

Neurospora crassa is a red mold that scientists use to study genetics. N. crassa commonly grows on bread as shown in the top left corner of this figure. To culture the mold in lab, researchers grow it in glassware such as test tubes, Erlenmeyer flasks, and petri dishes, as shown in the top right corner of the figure. In the glassware, researchers place a gel, called a medium, of agar, sucrose, salts, and vitamins. The mold grows on the medium, and cotton stoppers prevent anything from contaminating the mold.

Format: Graphics

Subject: Organisms

Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876)

Best known for his contributions to the field of embryology, Karl Ernst von Baer also pursued a variety of other areas of study including medicine, botany, zoology, and anthropology. Committing his life to scientific research, von Baer's work led to the advancement of the understanding of mammalian reproduction, development, and organ functioning. His embryological discoveries ultimately led him to a view of development that supported epigenesis and refuted long-held thinking about preformation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Comstock Law (1873)

The Comstock Law was a controversial law because it limited the reproductive rights of women and violated every person's right to privacy. This federal law was the beginning of a long fight over the reproductive rights of women which is still being waged. Reproductive rights are important to embryology because they lead to the discussions regarding the morality of abortion, contraceptives, and ultimately the moral status of the embryo.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Gattaca (1997)

Gattaca is a 1997 science fiction film produced in the US that depicts a future society that uses reproductive technology and genetic engineering in order to produce genetically enhanced human beings. By selectively choosing certain genes, scientists and physicians ensure that individuals born using reproductive technologies have desirable physical and psychological traits and prevent undesirable traits.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Plan B: Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Plan B is a progestin-only emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) that can be taken within seventy-two hours of unprotected sex in order to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Plan B was created in response to the United States Food and Drug Administration's (US FDA) 1997 request for new drug applications (NDAs) for a dedicated ECP product, and was approved for sales in the US in 1999. Duramed, a subsidiary of Barr Pharmaceuticals, manufactures Plan B for The Women's Capital Corporation (WCC), which owns the patent for Plan B.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

José Pedro Balmaceda (1948- )

José Pedro Balmaceda was born 22 August 1948 in Santiago, Chile. His mother Juanita owned a women's boutique in the city and his father José was a successful owner of several timber mills. He grew up with five sisters who remained in Santiago all their lives. Balmaceda attended the college preparatory school San Ignatius where he met Sergio Stone, his future partner at the Center for Reproductive Health fertility clinic in the University of California Irvine Medical Center.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

The People of the State of New York v. Margaret H. Sanger (1918)

In 1918, the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany broadened the justification physicians could use to prescribe contraceptives to married patients in the case The People of the State of New York v. Margaret H. Sanger (People v. Sanger). The presiding judge of People v. Sanger, Frederick Crane, ruled that under Section 1145 of the New York Penal Code physicians could provide contraceptives to married couples for the prevention of disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle over Birth Control (1963), by John Rock

In 1963, Roman Catholic fertility doctor John Rock published The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle over Birth Control, a first-person treatise on the use of scientifically approved forms of birth control for Catholic couples. The first contraceptive pill, called Enovid, had been on the market since June 1960, and Rock was one of the leading researchers in its development. In The Time Has Come, Rock explicitly describes the arguments for and against the use of birth control from both a religious and a scientific perspective.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Religion, Reproduction

Sergio Cereceda Stone (1942- )

Sergio Cereceda Stone was born 16 April 1942 in the coastal city of Valparaiso, Chile. Stone's mother Luz was a housewife and caretaker for Sergio and his younger brother Lionel; his father Sergio served among the country's twenty appellate court judges. In the early 1950s Stone's father relocated the family to Santiago to further his law career.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

Bernard Nathanson (1926-2011)

Bernard Nathanson was an obstetrician and gynecologist in New York City, New York, who argued for, and later against, women's rights to abortion. Between 1970 and 1979, Nathanson oversaw at least 75,000 abortions, 5,000 of which he performed himself, earning him the nickname of abortion king. However, his views regarding abortion shifted in 1973, after he watched an abortion using ultrasound imaging technology. Afterwards, Nathanson began to oppose women's rights to abortion, and he published the anti-abortion book Aborting America and produced the film Silent Scream.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Jeter v. Mayo (2005)

In Jeter v. Mayo, the Court of Appeals of Arizona in 2005 held that a cryopreserved, three-day-old pre-embryo is not a person for purposes of Arizona's wrongful death statutes, and that the Arizona Legislature was best suited to decide whether to expand the law to include cryopreserved pre-embryos. The Court of Appeals affirmed a decision by the Maricopa County Superior Court to dismiss a couple's wrongful death claim after the Mayo Clinic (Mayo) allegedly lost or destroyed several of their cryopreserved pre-embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Legal