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Essay: Review of Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos

To Lynn M. Morgan, the Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology at Mt. Holyoke College, nothing says life more than a dead embryo. In her easily readable book, Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos, Morgan brings together cultural phenomena, ethics, and embryology to show that even dead embryos and fetuses have their own stories to tell. As an anthropologist, Morgan is interested in many things, including the science of embryology and its history. But she also wants to know how culture influences our views on embryos and the material practices that accompany their study.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Publications

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

J. B. v. M. B. (2001)

In 2001, the Supreme Court of New Jersey decided a dispute between a divorced couple over cryopreserved preembryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) during the coupleÕs marriage. The former wife (J.B.) wanted the preembryos destroyed, while her former husband (M.B.) wanted them to be used for future implantation attempts, such as by an infertile couple. In J.B. v. M.B. (2001), the court declined to force J.B. to become a parent against her will, concluding that doing so would violate state public policy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

José Pedro Balmaceda (1948- )

José Pedro Balmaceda was born 22 August 1948 in Santiago, Chile. His mother Juanita owned a women's boutique in the city and his father José was a successful owner of several timber mills. He grew up with five sisters who remained in Santiago all their lives. Balmaceda attended the college preparatory school San Ignatius where he met Sergio Stone, his future partner at the Center for Reproductive Health fertility clinic in the University of California Irvine Medical Center.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Roe v. Wade (1973)

In the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court ruled that laws banning abortion violated the US Constitution. The Texas abortion laws, articles 1191–1194, and 1196 of the Texas penal code, made abortion illegal and criminalized those who performed or facilitated the procedure. Prior to Roe v. Wade, most states heavily regulated or banned abortions. The US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade secured women's rights to terminate pregnancies for any reasons within the first trimester of pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

The Food and Drug Administration’s Pregnancy and Lactation Labeling Rule (2014)

In 2014, the United States Food and Drug Administration published the Pregnancy and Lactation Labeling Rule to amend previous guidelines for the prescription of drugs for pregnant and lactating women. The 2014 Pregnancy and Lactation Labeling Rule was intended to increase the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs by making drug labels easier for physicians to understand and utilize.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990)

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 established the legal framework that governs infertility treatment, medical services ancillary to infertility treatment such as embryo storage, and all human embryological research performed in the UK. The law also defines a legal concept of the parent of a child conceived with assisted reproductive technologies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction, Ethics

The Source-Sink Model

The source-sink model, first proposed by biologist Francis Crick in 1970, is a theoretical system for how morphogens distribute themselves across small fields of early embryonic cells. A morphogen is a substance that determines the fate and phenotype of a group of cells through a concentration gradient of itself across that group. Crick’s theory has been experimentally confirmed with several morphogens, most notably with the protein bicoid , the first discovered morphogen. The model provides a theoretical structure for the understanding of some features of early embryonic development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Physician Labeling Rule (2006)

In 2006, the United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, published the “Requirements on Content and Format of Labeling for Human Prescription Drug and Biological Products,” also called the Physician Labeling Rule, to improve the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs and drug products. Within the Physician Labeling Rule, the FDA includes a section titled “Use in Specific Populations” or Section 8, which refers to drugs used by pregnant women, lactating women, and people of reproductive capacity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Calvin Blackman Bridges (1889-1938)

Calvin Blackman Bridges studied chromosomes and heredity in the US throughout the early twentieth century. Bridges performed research with Thomas Hunt Morgan at Columbia University in New York City, New York, and at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. Bridges and Morgan studied heredity in Drosophila, the common fruit fly. Throughout the early twentieth century, researchers were gathering evidence that genes, or what Gregor Mendel had called the factors that control heredity, are located on chromosomes.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Hodgson v. Minnesota (1990)

In the 1990 case Hodgson v. Minnesota, the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., upheld Minnesota statute 144.343, which required physicians to notify both biological parents of minors seeking abortions forty-eight hours prior to each procedure. The US Supreme Court determined that a state could legally require physicians to notify both parents of minors prior to performing abortions as long as they allowed for a judicial bypass procedure, in which courts could grant exceptions. The Supreme Court’s decision in Hodgson v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells (UCBSC)

Umbilical cord blood (UCB) stem cells are hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) that are recovered from the blood of the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. Umbilical cord blood is rich in cells that express the CD34 molecule, a surface protein that identifies cells as stem cells. Prior to the discovery of UCB stem cells, it was standard procedure to discard the umbilical cord and placenta; now much effort is devoted to raising public awareness and to encouraging people to store or donate cord blood.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, 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

Arizona State University Embryo Project Photograph Collections

In the 1970s Stanford University Embryologist Harold Heath sent a box of photographs to Frederick B. Churchill, who was a Professor in the History and Philosophy of Science Department at Indiana University. Heath was born in Indiana, he knew that Churchill was the leading historian of embryology, and he wanted his photographs to be used and therefore wanted them to be housed somewhere with an interest in the history of biology. Heath made it clear that he was donating the photographs for use by scholars and the public.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

"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

“Pelvic Scoring for Elective Induction” (1964), by Edward Bishop

In the 1964 article, “Pelvic Scoring for Elective Induction,” obstetrician Edward Bishop describes his method to determine whether a doctor should induce labor, or artificially start the birthing process, in a pregnant woman. Aside from medical emergencies, a woman can elect to induce labor to choose when she gives birth and have a shorter than normal labor. The 1964 publication followed an earlier article by Bishop, also about elective induction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Publications

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

"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

“Sierra Leone’s Former Child Soldiers: A Longitudinal Study of Risk, Protective Factors, and Mental Health” (2010), by Theresa S. Betancourt, Robert T. Brennan, Julia Rubin-Smith, Garrett M. Fitzmaurice, and Stephen E. Gilman

In 2010, Theresa S. Betancourt, Robert T. Brennan, Julia Rubin-Smith, Garrett M. Fitzmaurice, and Stephen E. Gliman, published “Sierra Leone’s Former Child Soldiers: A Longitudinal Study of Risk, Protective Factors, and Mental Health” in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The paper describes the results of a longitudinal study of former Sierra Leone child soldiers that examines how protective and risk factors affect children’s post-conflict mental health outcomes over several years of development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

John von Neumann's Cellular Automata

Cellular automata (CA) are mathematical models used to simulate complex systems or processes. In several fields, including biology, physics, and chemistry, CA are employed to analyze phenomena such as the growth of plants, DNA evolution, and embryogenesis. In the 1940s John von Neumann formalized the idea of cellular automata in order to create a theoretical model for a self-reproducing machine. Von Neumann's work was motivated by his attempt to understand biological evolution and self-reproduction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Smith v. Cote (1986)

The case of Smith v. Cote (1986) answered two important questions concerning law and childbirth: does the State of New Hampshire recognize a cause of action for what is defined as wrongful birth, and does the State recognize a cause of action for what is classified as wrongful life? In the case of Smith v. Cote, damages were permitted for wrongful birth, but not for the action of wrongful life.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Disorders

Francis Harry Compton Crick (1916-2004)

Francis Harry Compton Crick, who co-discovered the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in 1953 in Cambridge, England, also developed The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology, and further clarified the relationship between nucleotides and protein synthesis. Crick received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine that he shared with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins in 1962 for their discovery of the molecular structure of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ovum Humanum: Growth, Maturation, Nourishment, Fertilization and Early Development (1960), by Landrum Brewer Shettles

Ovum Humanum was written and compiled by Dr. Landrum Brewer Shettles while he worked as a doctor in New York. The publication contains an atlas of photographs of the human egg cell that Shettles took while working at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Stechert-Hafner, Inc, a publishing company based in New York City, published the book in 1960. The book presents a collection of color photographs that shows detail of the human egg that had never been seen before, providing a reference for scientists and doctors that documented the anatomy of these cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction

The Comstock Law (1873)

The Comstock Law was a controversial law because it limited the reproductive rights of women and violated every person's right to privacy. This federal law was the beginning of a long fight over the reproductive rights of women which is still being waged. Reproductive rights are important to embryology because they lead to the discussions regarding the morality of abortion, contraceptives, and ultimately the moral status of the embryo.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction