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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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Anencephaly

Anencephaly is an open neural tube defect, meaning that part of the neural tube does not properly close or that it has reopened during early embryogenesis. An embryo with anencephaly develops without the top of the skull, but retains a partial skull, including the face. Anencephaly is one of the most common birth defects of the neural tube, occurring at a rate of approximately one in one thousand human pregnancies. The condition can be caused by environmental exposure to chemicals, dietary deficiencies, or genetic mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Cardiac Development

A variety of developmental defects occur as a result of prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) in utero. In humans, those defects are collectively classified as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) representing the more severe defects. FAS is defined by pre- and post-natal growth retardation, minor facial abnormalities, and deficiencies in the central nervous system (CNS). In addition to those defects, prenatal exposure to alcohol impacts cardiogenesis, the developmental stage of heart formation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Congenital Vertebral Defects

The spinal column is the central structure in the vertebrate body from which stability, movement, and posture all derive. The vertebrae of the spine are organized into four regions (listed in order from cranial to caudal): cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and pelvic. These regions are classified by their differences in curvature. The human spine usually consists of thirty-three vertebrae, seven of which are cervical (C1-C7), twelve are thoracic (T1-T12), five are lumbar (L1-L5), and nine are pelvic (five fused as the sacrum and four fused as the coccyx).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

John Chassar Moir (1900–1977)

John Chassar Moir lived in Scotland during the twentieth century and helped develop techniques to improve the health of pregnant women. Moir helped to discover compounds that doctors could administer to women after childbirth to prevent life-threatening blood loss. Those compounds included the ergot alkaloid called ergometrine, also called ergonovine, and d-lysergic acid beta-propanolamide. Moir tested ergometrine in postpartum patients and documented that it helped prevent or manage postpartum hemorrhage in women.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Disorders

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

The Shettles Method of Sex Selection

In the 1960s in the United States Landrum B. Shettles developed the Shettles method, which is a procedure for couples to use prior to and during an intercourse to increase their chances of conceiving a fetus of their desired sex. Shettles, a physician, who specialized in obstetrics and gynecology, found a difference in the size and shape of male sperm cells that he correlated with the different sex chromosomes they carry.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

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

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

Evaluation of the Newborn Infant--Second Report (1958), by Virginia Apgar et al.

Virginia Apgar and colleagues wrote “Evaluation of the Newborn Infant—Second Report” in 1958. This article explained that Apgar’s system for evaluating infants’ condition after birth accurately predicted the health of infants. Apgar had developed the scoring system in 1953 to provide a simple method for determining if an infant needed medical attention after birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Publications

Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Cerebellum Development

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical, neurological, behavioral, and learning defects collectively grouped under the heading fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe combination of these defects under this heading, and is characterized by pre- and postnatal growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, and defects of the central nervous system (CNS).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Leon Chesley (1908-2000)

Leon Chesley studied hypertension, or high blood pressure, in pregnant women during the mid-twentieth century. Chesley studied preeclampsia and eclampsia, two hypertensive disorders found in approximately five percent of all US pregnancies. In New Jersey and New York, Chesley devoted over forty years to researching preeclampsia and eclampsia. Chesley conducted several long-term studies using the same group of women beginning from their pregnancies.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Charles Robert Cantor (1942- )

Charles Robert Cantor helped sequence the human genome, and he developed methods to non-invasively determine the genes in human fetuses. Cantor worked in the US during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His early research focused on oligonucleotides, small molecules of DNA or RNA. That research enabled the development of a technique that Cantor subsequently used to describe nucleotide sequences of DNA, a process called sequencing, in humans. Cantor was the principal scientist for the Human Genome Project, for which scientists sequenced the entirety of the human genome in 2003.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Pregnancy Tests

Throughout history methods involving urine have been a popular way to test for pregnancy. Early ideas ranged from simply observing the color of a woman's urine to the notion that the urine of pregnant women contains special crystals or secretions. Indeed, pregnancy testing can be traced back to 1350 BCE in Ancient Egypt. A written document from the time describes a process in which a woman would urinate on wheat and barley seeds over several days and, depending on which plant grew, both the woman's pregnancy status and the sex of the fetus could be determined.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Lap-Chee Tsui (1950-)

Lap-Chee Tsui is a geneticist who discovered the cystic fibrosis (CF) gene, and his research team sequenced human chromosome 7. As the location of the cystic fibrosis gene is now known, it is possible for doctors and specialists to identify in human fetuses the mutation that causes the fatal disease. Tsui's research also outlined the mechanisms for the development of cystic fibrosis, which were previously unknown.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

The Aschheim-Zondek Test for Pregnancy

Throughout history many different methods have been devised for the early detection of pregnancy. From the time of the Ancient Egyptians, inspection of the urine has been a popular place to start. However, it was not until the discovery of hormones in the early twentieth century that the development of truly reliable pregnancy tests occurred. Prior to 1978, when the first home pregnancy tests became available in the United States, pregnancy testing was done in hospital laboratories using various methods, one of them being the Aschheim-Zondek, or A-Z test.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

"Transfer of Fetal Cells with Multilineage Potential to Maternal Tissue" (2004), by Kiarash Khosrotehrani et al.

In 2004, a team of researchers at Tufts-New England
Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, investigated the fetal
cells that remained in the maternal blood stream after pregnancy.
The results were published in Transfer of Fetal Cells with
Multilineage Potential to Maternal Tissue. The team working on that
research included Kiarash Khosrotehrani, Kirby L. Johnson, Dong
Hyun Cha, Robert N. Salomon, and Diana W. Bianchi. The researchers
reported that the fetal cells passed to a pregnant woman during

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

Cocaine as a Teratogen

Cocaine use by pregnant women has a variety of effects on the embryo and fetus, ranging from various gastro-intestinal and cardiac defects to tissue death from insufficient blood supply. Thus, cocaine has been termed a teratogen, or an agent that causes defects in fetuses during prenatal development. Cocaine is one of the most commonly used drugs in the US and it has a history of both medical and illegal recreational use. It is a drug capable of a wide array of effects on physical and mental health.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Meiosis in Humans

Meiosis, the process by which sexually-reproducing organisms generate gametes (sex cells), is an essential precondition for the normal formation of the embryo. As sexually reproducing, diploid, multicellular eukaryotes, humans rely on meiosis to serve a number of important functions, including the promotion of genetic diversity and the creation of proper conditions for reproductive success.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

The Miracle of Life (1983), by NOVA

The most-watched NOVA documentary ever made and a revolution in the understanding of human development, The Miracle of Life (abbreviated Life) employs the most current developments in endoscopic and microscopic technology to capture the intricacies of human development. Narrated by Anita Sangiolo and vividly illustrating the most minute and hard-to-reach parts and processes of living systems, this film truly flexes the muscles of the newest photographic technology of its time, with esteemed photographer Lennart Nilsson behind the camera.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction

Life's Greatest Miracle (2001), by Julia Cort and NOVA

The Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) documentary Life's Greatest Miracle (abbreviated Miracle, available at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/miracle/program.html), is arguably one of the most vivid illustrations of the making of new human life. Presented as part of the PBS television series NOVA, Miracle is a little less than an hour long and was first aired 20 November 2001. The program was written and produced by Julia Cort and features images by renowned Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction

Dennis Lo (1963- )

Dennis Lo, also called Yuk Ming Dennis Lo, is a
professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong,
China. In 1997, Lo discovered fetal DNA in maternal
plasma, which is the liquid component of a pregnant woman's
blood. By 2002, Lo distinguished the DNA differences between pregnant women
and their fetuses, enabling scientists to identify fetal DNA in pregnant
women's blood. Lo used his discoveries to develop several
non-invasive and prenatal genetic tests, including tests for blood

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

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

Recombinant Gonadotropins Used in Fertility Treatments

First manufactured in 1988 by Serono laboratories, recombinant gonadotropins are synthetic hormones that can stimulate egg production in women for use in fertility treatments. Recombinant gonadotropins are artificially created using recombinant DNA technology, a technology that joins together DNA from different organisms. In vertebrates, naturally-occurring gonadotropins regulate the growth and function of the gonads, known as testes in males and ovaries in females.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Treatment of Pelvic Organ Prolapse in Women

Pelvic organ prolapse is a common condition in women that causes the pelvic organs to descend, often resulting from a weakened pelvic floor. Pelvic organs supported by the pelvic floor, such as the bladder, bowel, or uterus, can descend to such a degree that they project out from a woman’s body typically via the vagina. Pelvic floor stress or trauma, like vaginal childbirth, can cause pelvic organ prolapse. Women with pelvic organ prolapse also often experience other conditions, such as incontinence or the involuntary leakage of urine or fecal matter.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders, Processes