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Stem Cells

According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the standard American source on stem cell research, three characteristics of stem cells differentiate them from other cell types: (1) they are unspecialized cells that (2) divide for long periods, renewing themselves and (3) can give rise to specialized cells, such as muscle and skin cells, under particular physiological and experimental conditions. When allowed to grow in particular environments, stem cells divide many times. This ability to proliferate can yield millions of stem cells over several months.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Abortion

Abortion is the removal of the embryo or fetus from the womb, before birth can occur-either naturally or by induced labor. Prenatal development occurs in three stages: the zygote, or fertilized egg; the embryo, from post-conception to eight weeks; and the fetus, from eight weeks after conception until the baby is born. After abortion, the infant does not and cannot live. Spontaneous abortion is the loss of the infant naturally or accidentally, without the will of the mother. It is more commonly referred to as miscarriage.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

Gonzales v. Carhart (2007)

In Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), the US Supreme Court held in a five-to-four decision that the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by the US Congress was constitutional. Although the Court previously ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) that a Nebraska law that prohibited partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional, Gonzales reversed this decision. Gonzales created the precedent that anyone who delivers and kills a living fetus could be subject to legal consequences, unless he or she performed the procedure to save the life of the mother.

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

Shoukhrat Mitalipov and Masahito Tachibana’s Mitochondrial Gene Replacement in Primate Offspring and Embryonic Stem Cells (2009)

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Masahito Tachibana, and their team of researchers replaced the mitochondrial genes of primate embryonic stem cells via spindle transfer. Spindle replacement, also called spindle transfer, is the process of removing the genetic material found in the nucleus of one egg cell, or oocyte, and placing it in another egg that had its nucleus removed. Mitochondria are organelles found in all cells and contain some of the cell’s genetic material. Mutations in the mitochondrial DNA can lead to neurodegenerative and muscle diseases.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

"Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells" (2005), by Leon Kass and the President’s Council on Bioethics

Human pluripotent stem cells are valued for their potential to form numerous specialized cells and for their longevity. In the US, where a portion of the population is opposed to destruction of human embryos to obtain stem cells, what avenues are open to scientists for obtaining pluripotent cells that do not offend the moral sensibilities of a significant number of citizens?

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Ethics

Ooplasmic Transfer Technology

Ooplasmic transfer, also called cytoplasmic transfer, is an outside the body, in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique. Ooplasmic transfer in humans (Homo sapiens) is similar to in vitro fertilization (IVF), with a few additions. IVF is the process in which doctors manually combine an egg and sperm cells in a laboratory dish, as opposed to artificial insemination, which takes place in the female's body. For ooplasmic transfer, doctors withdraw cytoplasm from a donor's oocyte, and then they inject that cytoplasm with sperm into a patient's oocyte.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson’s Experiments on the Freezing of Bull Spermatozoa (1950–1952)

In 1952, researchers Christopher Polge and Lionel Edward Aston Rowson, who worked at the Animal Research Center in Cambridge, England, detailed several experiments on protocols for freezing bull semen for use in the artificial insemination of cows. Freezing sperm extends the life of a viable sperm sample and allows it to be used at later times, such as in artificial insemination. The researchers examined the effects of freezing conditions on bull sperm and how well they produce fertilized embryos once thawed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Chernobyl Heart (2003)

In 2003, HBO Original Programming released the documentary Chernobyl Heart. Maryann De Leo directed and produced the film, which is about the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident and how the radiation from that accident has affected people living in the area. Side effects have included mental disabilities, physical disabilities, and genetic mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Theophilus Shickel Painter (1889-1969)

Theophilus Shickel Painter studied the structure and
function of chromosomes in the US during in the early to mid-twentieth century. Painter worked at
the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas. In the 1920s
and 1930s, Painter studied the chromosomes of the salivary gland
giant chromosomes of the fruit fly (Drosophila
melanogaster), with Hermann J. Muller. Muller and Painter
studied the ability of X-rays to cause changes in the chromosomes
of fruit flies. Painter also studied chromosomes in mammals.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

MicroSort

"MicroSort, developed in 1990 by the Genetics and IVF Institute, is a form of pre-conception sex selection technology for humans. Laboratories located around the world use MicroSort technology to help couples increase their chances of conceiving a child of their desired sex. MicroSort separates male sperm cells based on which sex chromosome they contain, which results in separated semen samples that contain a higher percentage of sperm cells that carry the same sex chromosome.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Pope Gregory XIV (1535-1591)

Pope Gregory XIV, born Nicolo Sfondrati, reversed the bull of Pope Sixtus V, Effraenatum, under which an abortion at any time of gestation can be punished by excommunication. He supported the Aristotelian distinction between an "animated" and "unanimated" fetus, making abortion of an unanimated fetus punishable by lesser means. This decision contributed to the historical debates within the Roman Catholic Church on when a fetus has a soul, and when abortion was punishable by excommunication.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

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

Evans v. People of the State of New York [Brief] (1872)

Attempts by the New York legislature to make abortion a crime regardless of the stage of gestation were permanently frustrated because the court decided that manslaughter cannot occur until the law recognizes a living being in gestation and that only happens after quickening.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Reassessment of Carrel's Immortal Tissue Culture Experiments

In the 1910s, Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon and biologist, concluded that cells are intrinsically immortal. His claim was based on chick-heart tissue cultures in his laboratory that seemed to be able to proliferate forever. Carrel's ideas about cellular immortality convinced his many contemporaries that cells could be maintained indefinitely. In the 1960s, however, Carrel's thesis about cell immortality was put into question by the discovery that human diploid cells can only proliferate for a finite period.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Theories

"Interspecific Chimeras in Mammals: Successful Production of Live Chimeras Between Mus musculus and Mus caroli" (1980), by Janet Rossant and William I. Frels

In 1980 Janet Rossant and William I. Frels published their paper, "Interspecific Chimeras in Mammals: Successful Production of Live Chimeras Between Mus musculus and Mus caroli," in Science. Their experiment involved the first successful creation of interspecific mammalian chimeras. Mammalian chimeras are valuable for studying early embryonic development. However, in earlier studies, clonal analysis was restricted by the lack of a cell marker, present at all times, that makes a distinction between the two parental cell types in situ.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Hartsoeker's Homunculus Sketch from Essai de Dioptrique

This embryology image is a pencil sketch by Nicolaas Hartsoeker, published as part of his 1694 French-language paper entitled Essai de Dioptrique, a semi-speculative work describing the sorts of new scientific observations that could be done using magnifying lenses. Dioptrique was published in Paris by the publishing house of Jean Anisson. The image depicts a curled up infant-like human, now referred to as a homunculus, inside the head of a sperm cell.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories, Processes

Chorionic Villus Sampling

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a test used for prenatal diagnosis. Safe to perform at an earlier stage in pregnancy than amniocentesis, CVS is another invasive prenatal diagnostic test that can be performed as early as ten weeks after the woman's last menstrual cycle. While this test does carry some risks, it is generally very effective at predicting heritable diseases during or soon after the embryonic stage of development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Carnegie Stages

Historically the exact age of human embryo specimens has long perplexed embryologists. With the menstrual history of the mother often unknown or not exact, and the premenstrual and postmenstrual phases varying considerably among women, age sometimes came down to a best guess based on the weight and size of the embryo. Wilhelm His was one of the first to write comparative descriptions of human embryos in the late 1800s. Soon afterward, Franklin P. Mall, the first director of the Carnegie Institution of Washington's (CIW) Department of Embryology, expanded upon His' work.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

“Elective Induction of Labor” (1955), by Edward Bishop

In 1955, obstetrician Edward Bishop, a physician specializing in childbirth, published the article “Elective Induction of Labor,” in which he proposed the best conditions for pregnant women to elect to induce, or begin, labor. Elective induction of labor requires an obstetrician to administer a drug to help a pregnant woman to start her contractions, and to rupture the fluid-filled sac surrounding the fetus called the amniotic sac.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Publications

"Hybrids and Chimeras: A report on the findings of the consultation" by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in October, 2007

In 2007, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in London, UK, published Hybrids and Chimeras: A Report on the Findings of the Consultation, which summarized a public debate about research on, and suggested policy for, human animal chimeras. The HFEA formulated the report after conducting a series of surveys and debates from earlier in 2007. The HFEA issued a statement in September 2007, followed by an official report published on 1 October 2007. Their report on human-animal chimeras set a worldwide precedent for discussions of the ethical use of those embryos in labs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Legal, Outreach

“Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain: Epidemiological Evidence of the Relationship and Implications” (2005), by Arnaud Fauconnier and Charles Chapron

Arnaud Fauconnier and Charles Chapron published “Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain: Epidemiological Evidence of the Relationship and Implications,” henceforth “Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain,” in the journal Human Reproduction Update in 2005. In that article, the researchers studied the relationship between pelvic pain and endometriosis. Endometriosis is the growth of endometrium, or tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus, outside of the uterus. The authors review medical studies in order to determine how much evidence exists that endometriosis causes chronic pelvic pain symptoms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Doe v. Bolton (1973)

In the 1973 court case Doe v. Bolton, the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., ruled that a Georgia law regulating abortion was unconstitutional. The Georgia abortion law required women seeking abortions to get approval for the procedure from their personal physician, two consulting physicians, and from a committee at the admitting hospital. Furthermore, under the statutes, only women who had been raped, whose lives were in danger from the pregnancy, or who were carrying fetuses likely to be seriously, permanently malformed were permitted to receive abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Hedgehog Signaling Pathway

The hedgehog signaling pathway is a mechanism that directs the development of embryonic cells in animals, from invertebrates to vertebrates. The hedgehog signaling pathway is a system of genes and gene products, mostly proteins, that convert one kind of signal into another, called transduction. In 1980, Christiane Nusslein-Volhard and Eric F. Wieschaus, at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, identified several fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) genes.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes