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The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC)

Audrey Heimler and colleagues founded the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) in 1979 in New Hyde Park in New York, New York. Her stated goals were to establish the field of genetic counseling within biomedicine and to coordinate counselors’ voices, so that physicians and others in the medical industry would not dictate the future of the field. Genetic counselors inform patients about the potential for inherited diseases passed on through family lineages and help to navigate the options available.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Sheldon Clark Reed (1910-2003)

Sheldon Clark Reed helped establish the profession of genetic counseling in the US during the twentieth century. In 1947 Reed coined the term genetic counseling to describe the interaction of a doctor explaining to a patient the likelihood of passing a certain trait to their offspring. With physicians being able to test for genetic abnormalities like cystic fibrosis, Reed helped trained individuals give patients the tools to make informed decisions. In 1955 Reed published the book Counseling in Medical Genetics.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Plowman v. Fort Madison Community Hospital (2017)

In June 2017, the Iowa Supreme Court decided the case Plowman v. Fort Madison Community Hospital, or Plowman v. FMCH, and ruled that women who gave birth to children with severe disabilities could sue for wrongful birth in Iowa. Specifically, after Plowman v. FMCH, a woman could sue for wrongful birth if she believed that her physicians failed to disclose evidence of fetal abnormalities that may have prompted her to terminate the pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

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

Stanley Alan Plotkin's Development of a Rubella Vaccine (1969)

In the US during the late 1960s, Stanley Alan Plotkin, John D. Farquhar, Michael Katz, and Fritz Buser isolated a strain of the infectious disease rubella and developed a rubella vaccine with a weakened, or attenuated, version of the virus strain. Rubella, also called German measles, is a highly contagious disease caused by the rubella virus that generally causes mild rashes and fever. However, in pregnant women, rubella infections can lead to developmental defects in their fetuses.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Jane Elizabeth Hodgson (1915–2006)

Jane Elizabeth Hodgson was a physician who advocated for abortion rights in the twentieth century in the United States. In November of 1970, Hodgson became the first physician in the U.S. to be convicted of performing an illegal abortion in a hospital. Hodgson deliberately performed the abortion to challenge the Minnesota State Statute 617.18, which prohibited non-therapeutic abortions. Following the legalization of abortion in the US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade (1973), Hodgson focused on promoting accessible abortion, obstetric, and gynecological care throughout Minnesota.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

The concept Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) refers to a set of birth defects that occur in children born to mothers who abused alcohol during pregnancy. The alcohol-induced defects include pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies, minor facial abnormalities, and damage to the developing central nervous system (CNS).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

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

Franz Julius Keibel (1861-1929)

Franz Keibel studied the embryos of humans and other animals in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. He lived and worked in several different parts of Germany and France. Keibel drew illustrations of embryos in many stages of development. Keibel used these illustrations, which he and others in the scientific community called normal plates, to describe the development of organisms in several species of vertebrates.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Andrew Francis Dixon (1868-1936)

Andrew Francis Dixon studied human anatomy and egg cells at the turn of the twentieth century in Ireland and Great Britain. Dixon studied the sensory and motor nervous system of the face, the cancellous bone tissue of the femur, supernumerary kidneys, and the urogenital system. In 1927 Dixon described a mature human ovarian follicle. This follicle, Dixon noted, contained an immature human egg cell (oocyte) with a visible first polar body and the beginnings of the second polar body.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Walter Jakob Gehring (1939-2014)

Walter Jakob Gehring discovered the homeobox, a DNA segment found in a specific cluster of genes that determine the body plan of animals, plants, and fungi. Gehring identified the homeobox in 1983, with the help of colleagues while isolating the Antennapedia (Antp) gene in fruit flies (Drosophila) at the University of Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Hox genes, a family of genes that have the homeobox, determine the head-to-tail (anterior-posterior) body axis of both vertebrates and invertebrates.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is a test used for prenatal diagnosis of inherited diseases, Rh incompatibility, neural tube defects, and lung maturity. Normally performed during the second trimester of a pregnancy, this invasive procedure allows the detection of health problems in the fetus as early as fifteen weeks gestation. Although amniocentesis does carry some significant risks, the medical community commonly accepts it as a safe and useful procedure.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Josef Warkany (1902–1992)

Josef Warkany studied the environmental causes of birth defects in the United States in the twentieth century. Warkany was one of the first researchers to show that factors in the environment could cause birth defects, and he helped to develop guidelines for the field of teratology, the study of birth defects. Prior to Warkany’s work, scientists struggled to explain if or how environmental agents could cause birth defects. Warkany demonstrated that a deficiency or excess of vitamin A in maternal nutrition could cause birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Leon Richard Kass (1939- )

A PhD and medical doctor turned ethicist, Leon Kass calls himself an unlicensed humanist. Throughout his unique career he has sought to impact others and engage important cultural issues. This he has accomplished over the course of many years by studying biochemistry, teaching humanities, writing articles and books on ethics, and serving as chair of the President's Council on Bioethics.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

Interspecies SCNT-derived Humanesque Blastocysts

Since the 1950s, scientists have developed interspecies blastocysts in laboratory settings, but not until the 1990s did proposals emerge to engineer interspecies blastocysts that contained human genetic or cellular material. Even if these embryos were not permitted to mature to fetal stages, their ethical and political status became debated within nations attempting to use them for research.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

John Craig Venter (1946- )

John Craig Venter helped map the genomes of humans, fruitflies, and other organisms in the US in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and he helped develop an organism with a synthetic genome. In February 2001, Venter and his team published a human genome sequence after using a technique known as Expressed Sequence Tags, or ESTs. Venter worked to bridge commercial investment with scientific research. Venter founded a number of private companies, including the for-profit Celera Genomics, headquartered in Alameda, California, as well as research institutes, such as the not-for-profit J.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Advanced Cell Technology, Inc.

Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. (ACT) is a biotechnology company that uses stem cell technology to develop novel therapies in the field of regenerative medicine. Formed in 1994, ACT grew from a small agricultural cloning research facility located in Worcester, Massachusetts, into a multi-locational corporation involved in using both human embryonic stem cells (hESC) and human adult stem cells as well as animal cells for therapeutic innovations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM)

Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM) is an imaging method that allows the visualization of internal body structures. Using powerful magnets to send energy into cells, MRM picks up signals from inside a specimen and translates them into detailed computer images. MRM is a useful tool for scientists because of its ability to generate digital slices of scanned specimens that can be constructed into virtual 3D images without destroying the specimens. MRM has become an increasingly prevalent imaging technique in embryological studies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Kurt Benirschke (1924-)

Kurt Benirschke studied cells, placentas, and endangered species in Germany and the US during the twentieth century. Benirschke was professor at the University of California in San Diego, California, and a director of the research department at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California. He also helped form the research department of the San Diego Zoo and its sister organization, the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Shinya Yamanaka (1962- )

Shinya Yamanaka gained international prominence after publishing articles detailing the successful generation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, first in mice, then in humans. Yamanaka induced somatic cells to act like human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), allowing researchers to experiment with non-embryonic stem cells with a similar capacity as hESCs. The research involving iPS cells therefore offered new potential for research and application in medical treatment, without many of the ethical objections that hESC research entailed.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Friedrich Tiedemann (1781-1861)

Friedrich Tiedemann studied the anatomy of humans and animals in the nineteenth century in Germany. He published on zoological subjects, on the heart of fish, the anatomy of amphibians and echinoderms, and the lymphatic and respiratory system in birds. In addition to his zoological anatomy, Tiedemann, working with the chemist Leopold Gmelin, published about how the digestive system functioned.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

Cornelia Isabella Bargmann (1961- )

Cornelia Isabella Bargmann studied the relationship between genes, neural circuits, and behavior in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the US. Bargmann’s research focused on how the sense of smell (olfaction) in the nematode word Caenorhabditis elegans. She provided a model to study how neural circuits develop and function in the human brain, as the genetic regulatory pathways are similar.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex (1998), by Alice Domurat Dreger

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, by historian of science Alice Domurat Dreger, was published in 1998 by Harvard University Press. In the book, Dreger describes how many doctors and scientists treated human hermaphrodites from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. She states that during this time period, many physicians and scientists struggled to determine the nature sex, and to support a classification of sex as male or female, many physicians and scientists resorted to viewing a person's gonads for identification of his or her sex.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories, Disorders