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Thesis: From Monsters to Medicine: A Historical Analysis of Changes in the Field of Teratology Over the Twentieth Century
This project focuses on the history of how teratogens, or agents which have the potential to cause birth defects, have been understood and tested for teratogenic potential in the US over the twentieth century. Prior to this time, teratogen studies were primarily concerned with cataloguing defects rather than exploring possible causes. At the turn of the twentieth century, experimental teratogen studies with the aim of elucidating mechanisms commenced.
Format: Essays and Theses
Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1805-1861)
Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire studied anatomy and congenital abnormalities in humans and other animals in nineteenth century France. Under the tutelage of his father, Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Isidore compiled and built on his father's studies of individuals with developmental malformations, then called monstrosities.
Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)
Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) can occur in children whose mothers contracted the rubella virus, sometimes called German measles, during pregnancy. Depending on the gestational period when the mother contracts rubella, an infant born with CRS may be unaffected by the virus or it may have severe developmental defects. The most severe effects of the virus on fetal development occur when the mother contracts rubella between conception and the first trimester.
Agent Orange Birth Defects
Sprayed extensively by the US military in Vietnam, Agent Orange contained a dioxin contaminant later found to be toxic to humans. Despite reports by Vietnamese citizens and Vietnam War veterans of increased rates of stillbirths and birth defects in their children, studies in the 1980s showed conflicting evidence for an association between the two. In 1996, the US National Academy of Sciences reported that there was evidence that suggested dioxin and Agent Orange exposure caused spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal cord develops improperly.
“Mothers’ Anxiety During Pregnancy Is Associated with Asthma in Their Children” (2009), by Hannah Cookson, Raquel Granell, Carol Joinson, Yoav Ben-Shlomo, and A. John Henderson
In 2009, A. John Henderson and colleagues published “Mothers’ Anxiety During Pregnancy Is Associated with Asthma in Their Children,” hereafter, “Mothers’ Anxiety,” in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Previous studies had shown that maternal stress during pregnancy affects children’s health during childhood. The researchers explored the association of asthma in children with maternal anxiety during pregnancy. The cause of asthma is often unknown.
Subject: Theories, Reproduction, Publications, Disorders
Emma Wolverton (1889–1978)
Emma Wolverton, also known as Deborah Kallikak, lived her entire life in an institution in New Jersey after psychologist Henry Goddard classified her as feeble-minded. He also wrote a book about Wolverton and her family that psychiatrists previously used to show that intellectual disability is hereditary. At the time, researchers in the psychology field, including Goddard, were working to understand differences in people’s intellectual abilities. They used the term feeble-minded to refer to those they described as having lower intellectual functioning.
US Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program
In 1996, the US Congress mandated that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) create and regulate the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. The program tests industrial and agricultural chemicals for hormonal impacts in humans and in wildlife that may disrupt organisms' endocrine systems. The endocrine system regulates the release of small amounts of chemical substances called hormones to keep the body functioning normally.
Role of Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) in Alcohol-Induced Craniofacial Abnormalities
Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical and neurological developmental abnormalities that vary depending on the timing, duration, and degree of alcohol exposure. Heavy exposure during development may lead to the condition Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), characterized by growth deficits, neurological deficiencies and minor facial abnormalities. Alcohol is a known teratogen, an agent that causes birth defects and acts upon developing embryos through mechanisms that are not yet fully understood.
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
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) is a human disorder in which an individual's genetic sex (genotype) differs from that individual's observable secondary sex characteristics (phenotypes). A fetus with AIS is genetically male with a 46,XY genotype. The term 46,XY refers to the chromosomes found in most cells of the fetus. Most cells have a total of 46 autosomes, or non-sex chromosomes, and a pair sex chromosomes, XX for genetic females, or XY for genetic males.
In 1881 British opthalmologist Warren Tay made an unusual observation. He reported a cherry-red spot on the retina of a one-year-old patient, a patient who was also showing signs of progressive degeneration of the central nervous system as manifested in the child's physical and mental retardation. This cherry-red spot is a characteristic that would eventually come to be associated with metabolic neurological disorders like Sandhoff, GM-1, Niemann-Pick, and, to the credit of Tay, the lysosomal storage disorder known as Tay-Sachs disease.
United States v. Georgia (2006)
In United States v. Georgia, the United States Supreme Court held, in a unanimous decision, that the rights protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, extended to inmates held in state prisons. The Court also abolished sovereign immunity in cases where the Eighth Amendment is involved. The case came about as a result of Tony Goodman, a paraplegic man in a Georgia state prison, who attempted to sue the state under Title II of the ADA.
Agent Orange as a Cause of Spina Bifida
Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the spines of developing fetuses and infants, and research in the 20th century indicated that chemicals in the herbicide Agent Orange likely lead to the birth defect. People with spina bifida can have nerve damage, paralysis, and mental disabilities. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the US military employed Agent Orange and other herbicides to destroy enemy crops and forest cover until 1970.
“The Social and Psychological Impact of Endometriosis on Women’s Lives: A Critical Narrative Review” (2013), by Lorraine Culley, Caroline Law, Nicky Hudson, Elaine Denny, Helene Mitchell, Miriam Baumgarten, and Nicholas Raine-Fenning
In “The Social and Psychological Impact of Endometriosis on Women’s Lives: A Critical Narrative Review,” hereafter “Social and Psychological Impact of Endometriosis,” authors Lorraine Culley, Caroline Law, Nicky Hudson, Elaine Denny, Helene Mitchell, Miriam Baumgarten, and Nicholas Raine-Fenning review the extent at which endometriosis results in a negative quality of life for affected women.
Subject: Reproduction, Disorders, Publications
Dysmenorrhea as a Menstrual Disorder
Dysmenorrhea refers to painful menstrual bleeding and often includes symptoms such as cramps in the lower abdominal region, pain radiating down to the thighs, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and headaches. There are two types of dysmenorrhea, called primary and secondary dysmenorrhea, which develop in different ways. In cases of primary dysmenorrhea, people experience painful cramps before and during most of their menstrual cycles, which does not happen as a result of a different underlying condition and is mostly due to hormone imbalances.
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.
Subject: Reproduction, Disorders, Processes
“Pelvic Organ Prolapse” (2007), by John E. Jelovsek, Christopher Maher, and Matthew D. Barber
In 2007, physicians John Jelovsek, Christopher Maher, and Matthew Barber published, “Pelvic Organ Prolapse,” in The Lancet. In their article, Jelovsek and colleagues provided an overview of pelvic organ prolapse in women and described the epidemiology, risk factors, symptoms, and management of the condition. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when a woman’s pelvic floor is weakened or damaged from stress or trauma such as vaginal childbirth.
Subject: Publications, Disorders
Gestational diabetes is a medical condition that causes blood sugar levels to become abnormally high, which manifests for the first-time during pregnancy and typically disappears immediately after birth for around ninety percent of affected women. While many women with the condition do not experience any noticeable symptoms, some may experience increased thirst and urination.
Subject: Reproduction, Disorders
Emil Kraepelin (1856–1926)
Emil Kraepelin was a physician who studied people with mental illness in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in modern-day Germany. Kraepelin's examination and description of the symptoms and outcomes of mental illness formed the basis for his classification of psychiatric disorders into two main groups, dementia praecox, now called schizophrenia, and manic-depressive psychosis, now called bipolar disorder. He was one of the first physicians to suggest that those researching mental illness should gain scientific knowledge only through close observation and description.
“The Standardization of Terminology of Female Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction” (1996), Richard C. Bump, Anders Mattiasson, Kari Bø, Linda P. Brubaker, John O.L. DeLancey, Peter Klarskov, Bob L. Shull, Anthony R.B. Smith
In 1996, a team of researchers associated with the International Continence Society published “The Standardization of Terminology of Female Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction” in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Pelvic organ prolapse is characterized by the descent of the pelvic organs into the lower portion of the pelvis and is often caused by a weakening of the muscles and ligaments that normally hold the organs in place.
Subject: Publications, Disorders
Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP)
Subject: Technologies, Disorders
Truman William Brophy (1848–1928)
Truman William Brophy developed a cleft palate surgical repair, later called the Brophy Operation, in the late nineteenth century US. The procedure improved facial aesthetics and speech in cleft palate patients. A cleft palate occurs during development when the palatal bones in the roof of the mouth don't completely fuse, leaving an opening, or cleft, in the upper lip and mouth. Brophy's cleft repair used compression inside and outside of the mouth to push the palatal bones into normal alignment shortly after birth.
"The Familial Factor in Toxemia of Pregnancy" (1968), by Leon C. Chesley, et al.
In the 1950s and 1960s, researchers Leon Chesley, John Annitto, and Robert Cosgrove investigated the possible familial factor for the conditions of preeclampsia and eclampsia in pregnant women. Preeclampsia and eclampsia, which are related to high blood pressure, have unknown causes and affect at least five percent of all pregnancies.
Subject: Reproduction, Experiments, Disorders
Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Its Treatment with Artificial Surfactant
Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, previously called hyaline membrane disease, is a respiratory disease affecting premature newborns. Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome involves shallow breathing, pauses between breaths that last a few seconds, or apnea, and a bluish tinge to the infant’s skin. The syndrome occurs when microscopic sacs called alveoli in infant lungs do not produce surfactant, a liquid that coats the inside of the lungs and helps them inflate during breathing.
Olmstead v. L.C. (1999)
In the 1999 case Olmstead v. L.C., hereafter Olmstead, the United States Supreme Court held in a six to three decision that the forced segregation of people based on disability violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Two women with mental and intellectual disabilities, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, referred to as L.C. and E.W. in case documents, sued the state of Georgia and Tommy Olmstead, the Commissioner of Georgia who headed the Department of Human Resources, for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.