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Thesis: How Purported Scientific Failures Have Led to Advancements in IVF

This thesis shows us the history of how some of the first attempts at IVF in humans using various options such as donated egg cells and cryopreserved embryos, often ended in early miscarriages. At that time, most members of the scientific community and general public responded to those trials by regarding them as insignificant. In 1998, the success rate of women under the age of 38 having children with the use of IVF was 22.1%. Over time, scientists began to acknowledge those published findings that detailed various “failed” human IVF experiments.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Publications, Technologies, Experiments, Reproduction, Outreach

Free Hospital for Women Scrapbook by Harvard University Library

This scrapbook is part of the Harvard University Library's collection on "Working Women, 1800-1930," which is itself part of the Open Collections Program. The print version is located at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. It contains information about the hospital, including articles from newspapers, magazines, and other publications; photographs of the hospital, employees, and special events; lecture announcements; letters and other forms of correspondence; ration cards; tickets; forms; certificates; posters; programs; and playbills.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Ethics, Reproduction

Patrick Christopher Steptoe (1913-1988)

Patrick Christopher Steptoe was a British gynecologist responsible for major advances in gynecology and reproductive technology. Throughout his career Steptoe promoted laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgical technique that allows a view inside the abdominal cavity, successfully advancing its usefulness in gynecology. After partnering with embryologist Robert Edwards in 1966, the pair performed the first in vitro fertilization in humans.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT)

Various techniques constitute assisted reproduction, one of which is gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT). The first example of GIFT involved primates during the 1970s; however, the technology was unsuccessful until 1984 when an effective GIFT method was invented by Ricardo Asch at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center and the procedure resulted in the first human pregnancy. The GIFT technique was created in hopes of generating an artificial insemination process that mimicked the physiological sequences of normal conception.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

York v. Jones [Brief] (1989)

The court treated frozen embryos possessed by an in vitro fertilization clinic as property owned by the parents and held under a bailment contract by the clinic. As such, the contract between the parties controlled disposition of the embryos but when the contract ended, control of the embryos reverted back to the parents. This decision had little effect on subsequent embryo cases because the circumstances were so unusual. Neither party contended the embryos had any rights.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

J.B. v. M.B. [Brief] (2001)

In a dispute over frozen embryos during a divorce case, the court decided the wife's fundamental right to not procreate mandated destruction of the pre-embryos in light of the husband's continuing ability to procreate with a different partner. The court also said embryo disposition agreements used by in vitro fertilization clinics were generally enforceable subject to either spouse's right to change his or her mind prior to use of the pre-embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

The landmark Supreme Court case, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), gave women more control over their reproductive rights while also bringing reproductive and birth control issues into the public realm and more importantly, into the courts. Bringing these issues into the public eye allowed additional questions about the reproductive rights of women, such as access to abortion, to be asked. This court case laid the groundwork for later cases such as Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) and Roe v. Wade (1973).

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

The Birth Control Pill

The birth control pill, more commonly known as "the pill" is a form of contraception taken daily in pill form and consisting of synthetic hormones formulated to prevent ovulation, fertilization, and implantation of a fertilized egg. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first birth control pill, Enovid, in June 1960. It was the first contraceptive pill marketed worldwide. Since then a number of different pills have been developed, which differ in hormone type and dosage, and whether they contain one hormone (the minipill) or two (the combination pill).

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Robert Geoffrey Edwards (1925-2013)

Robert Geoffrey Edwards worked with Patrick Christopher Steptoe to develop in-vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques during the 1960s and 1970s in the United Kingdom. Louise Brown, the world' s first "test-tube baby," was born as a result of Edwards and Steptoe's IVF techniques in 1978, and since then more than four million children have been born using IVF techniques. Publicity and controversy accompanied Edwards and Steptoe's work as conservative religious institutions expressed concern over the morality of the IVF procedure.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

John Charles Rock (1890-1984)

Born on 24 March 1890 in Marlborough, Massachusetts, to Ann and Frank Rock, John Charles Rock was both a devout Catholic and one of the leading investigators involved in the development of the first oral contraceptive pill. In 1925 he married Anna Thorndike, with whom he later had five children. He spent over thirty years of his career as a clinical professor of obstetrics at Harvard Medical School, and in 1964 the Center for Population Studies of the Harvard School of Public Health established the John Rock Professorship.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Landrum Brewer Shettles (1909-2003)

Landrum Brewer Shettles is remembered as an important contributor to early in vitro fertilization research in the United States as well as a prolific author on the subject of choosing a child's sex before conception. Shettles was born in Pontotoc County, Mississippi on 21 November 1909 to Sue Mounce and Brazil Manly. Shettles trained and worked as a gynecologist at Columbia University Presbyterian Medical Center, after receiving his MD in 1943 from Johns Hopkins University.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Ectopic Pregnancy

Many difficulties can arise with a pregnancy even after the sperm successfully fertilizes the oocyte. A major problem occurs if the fertilized egg tries to implant before reaching its normal implantation site, the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants anywhere other than in the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies cannot continue to term, so a physician must remove the developing embryo as early as possible.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Processes, 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

Zhang Lizhu (1921- )

Zhang Lizhu is a Chinese gynecologist and researcher. For most of her career, she worked in the Peking Medical College Third Hospital, renamed in 2000, Peking University Third Hospital. There, she led a team of researchers and physicians in the study of human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET) technology. Zhang and her colleagues contributed to the birth of the first test-tube baby in Mainland China in 1988.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

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

“Effect of Air Quality on Assisted Human Reproduction” (2010), by Richard Legro, Mark V. Sauer, Gilbert L. Mottla, Kevin S. Richter, Xian Li, William C. Dodson, and Duanping Liao

In the early 2000s, Richard S. Legro, Mark V. Sauer, Gilbert L. Mottla, Kevin S. Richter, William C. Dodson, and Duanping Liao studied the relationship between air pollution and reproductive complications. In the United States, Legro’s team tracked thousands of women undergoing in vitro fertilization, or IVF, along with the air quality of both the IVF clinics and patients’ home locations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, 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

Davis v. Davis [Brief] (1992)

This case was the first of its kind to address questions of personhood in the context of in vitro fertilization of a human embryo. It laid a foundation for future cases to work from: specifically, this case established the importance of prior written agreements for disposition of frozen embryos. This was also the first court decision to borrow the word "pre-embryo" from bioethics to describe the in vitro embryo. This terminology has been copied by many states.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Progestin: Synthetic Progesterone

Progestin is a synthetic form of progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone, which plays an important role in the female reproductive cycle. During the 1950s two types of progestin that were later used in birth control pills were created, norethindrone and norethynodrel. In 1951 Carl Djerassi developed norethindrone at Syntex, S.A. laboratories located in Mexico City, receiving a patent on 1 May 1956. In 1953 Frank Colton developed norethynodrel at G.D. Searle and Company laboratories located in Chicago, receiving a patent on 29 November 1955.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Ethics of Designer Babies

A designer baby is a baby genetically engineered in vitro for specially selected traits, which can vary from lowered disease-risk to gender selection. Before the advent of genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization (IVF), designer babies were primarily a science fiction concept. However, the rapid advancement of technology before and after the turn of the twenty-first century makes designer babies an increasingly real possibility.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, Reproduction

Litowitz v. Litowitz [Brief] (2002)

Pursuant to an express provision of the embryo disposition contract they both signed, a husband and wife had to petition the court for instructions because they could not reach an agreement about what to do with frozen embryos when they divorced. The trial court awarded the pre-embryos to the husband and the Court of Appeals affirmed this decision. However, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the pre-embryos should be thawed out and allowed to expire because the dispute had not been resolved within a five year time frame prescribed by the Cryopreservation Agreement.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Howard Wilber Jones Jr.

Howard Wilber Jones Jr. and his wife, Georgeanna Seegar Jones, developed a method of in vitro fertilization and helped create the first baby in the US using that method. Though the first in vitro baby was born in England in 1978, Jones and his wife's contribution allowed for the birth of Elizabeth Carr on 28 December 1981. Jones, a gynecologist and an obstetrician, researched human reproduction for most of his life.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the US

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is an artificially created hormone first synthesized in the late 1930s. Doctors widely prescribed DES first to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages, and later as an emergency contraceptive pill and to treat breast cancer. However, in 1971, physicians showed a link between DES and vaginal cancer during puberty in the children of women who had taken DES while pregnant. Consequently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned its use during pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Technologies

The Effects of Bisphenol A on Embryonic Development

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound that was first synthesized by Aleksandr Dianin, a Russian chemist from St. Petersburg, in 1891. The chemical nomenclature of BPA is 2,2-bis (4-hydroxyphenyl) propane. The significance of this synthesized compound did not receive much attention until 1936, when two biochemists interested in endocrinology, Edward Dodds and William Lawson, discovered its ability to act as an estrogen agonist in ovariectomized, estrogen-deficient rats.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Hwang Woo-suk's Use of Human Eggs for Research 2002-2005

Hwang Woo-suk, a geneticist in South Korea, claimed in Science magazine in 2004 and 2005 that he and a team of researchers had for the first time cloned a human embryo and that they had derived eleven stem cell lines from it. Hwang was a professor at Seoul National University in Seoul, South Korea. In the Science articles, Hwang stated that all of the women who donated eggs to his laboratory were volunteers who donated their eggs (oocytes) without receiving any compensation in return. In 2006, Hwang admitted that many of the results were fabricated.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics, Reproduction