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Ethics and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

The recent development of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and related technologies has caught the attention of scientists, activists, politicians, and ethicists alike. IPSCs gained immediate international attention for their apparent similarity to embryonic stem cells after their successful creation in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka and in 2007 by James Thompson and others.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Ethics

Biological Clocks and the Formation of Human Tooth Enamel

Tooth enamel contains relics of its formation process, in the form of microstructures, which indicate the incremental way in which it forms. These microstructures, called cross-striations and striae of Retzius, develop as enamel-forming cells called ameloblasts, whcih cyclically deposit enamel on developing teeth in accordance with two different biological clocks. Cross-striations result from a twenty-four hour cycle, called a Circadian rhythm, in the enamel deposition process, while striae of Retzius have a longer periodicity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

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

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Experiments by Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka in 2006 and 2007

In 2006, Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka reprogrammed mice fibroblast cells, which can produce only other fibroblast cells, to become pluripotent stem cells, which have the capacity to produce many different types of cells. Takahashi and Yamanaka also experimented with human cell cultures in 2007. Each worked at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan. They called the pluripotent stem cells that they produced induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) because they had induced the adult cells, called differentiated cells, to become pluripotent stem cells through genetic manipulation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Alfred Day Hershey (1908–1997)

During the twentieth century in the United States, Alfred Day Hershey studied phages, or viruses that infect bacteria, and experimentally verified that genes were made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Genes are molecular, heritable instructions for how an organism develops. When Hershey started to study phages, scientists did not know if phages contained genes, or whether genes were made of DNA or protein. In 1952, Hershey and his research assistant, Martha Chase, conducted phage experiments that convinced scientists that genes were made of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Kass v. Kass (1998)

In Maureen Kass v. Steven Kass (1998), the Court of Appeals of New York in Albany, New York, ruled that the state should generally consider IVF consent forms signed by participants in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) program valid, binding, and enforceable in the event of a dispute. The court indicated that decisions regarding the handling of cryopreserved pre-zygotes, often called preembryos, contained within these consent forms should be upheld.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Shoukhrat Mitalipov and Masahito Tachibana's Mitochondrial Gene Replacement Therapy Technique

In 2009, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Masahito Tachibana, and their team of researchers developed the technology of mitochondrial gene replacement therapy to prevent the transmission of a mitochondrial disease from mother to offspring in primates. Mitochondria contain some of the body's genetic material, called mitochondrial DNA. Occasionally, the mitochondrial DNA possesses mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

"Drama of Life Before Birth" (1965), by Life Magazine and Lennart Nilsson

Life Magazine's 1965 cover story "Drama of Life Before Birth" featured photographs of embryos and fetuses taken by Swedish photojournalist Lennart Nilsson to document the developmental stages of a human embryo. Included in this article was the first published image of a living fetus inside its mother's womb. Prior to this, embryos and fetuses were observed, studied, and photographed outside of women's bodies as non-living specimens.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Outreach, Reproduction

Jeter v. Mayo Clinic Arizona [Brief] (2005)

In Arizona, statutes that protect persons, such as the wrongful death statute, will not be interpreted by the courts to grant personhood status to frozen embryos. The legislature may grant such protection in the statute if it chooses to do so by explicitly defining the word person to include frozen embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Embryonic Differentiation in Animals

Embryonic differentiation is the process of development during which embryonic cells specialize and diverse tissue structures arise. Animals are made up of many different cell types, each with specific functions in the body. However, during early embryonic development, the embryo does not yet possess these varied cells; this is where embryonic differentiation comes into play. The differentiation of cells during embryogenesis is the key to cell, tissue, organ, and organism identity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

David Michael Rorvik (1944–)

David Michael Rorvik is a science journalist who publicized advancements in the field of reproductive medicine during the late twentieth century. Rorvik wrote magazine articles and books in which he discussed emerging methods and technologies that contributed to the progression of reproductive health, including sex determination, in vitro fertilization, and human cloning. During that time, those topics were controversial and researchers often questioned Rorvik’s work for accuracy.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Menstrupedia Comic: The Friendly Guide to Periods for Girls (2014), by Aditi Gupta, Tuhin Paul, and Rajat Mittal

Menstrupedia published the comic book Menstrupedia Comic: The Friendly Guide to Periods for Girls, hereafter Menstrupedia Comic, in July 2014 in India. Aditi Gupta, the founder of Menstrupedia and a women’s health activist, wrote Menstrupedia Comic while studying at the National Institute of Design in Gujarat, India, in 2013. Gupta worked alongside her husband, graphic designer Tuhin Paul, who provided the illustrations for the book. According to Menstrupedia, misconceptions and taboo surrounding menstruation in India prompted Gupta to develop the book.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction, Outreach

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) are cells derived from non-pluripotent cells, such as adult somatic cells, that are genetically manipulated so as to return to an undifferentiated, pluripotent state. Research on iPSCs, initiated by Shinya Yamanaka in 2006 and extended by James Thompson in 2007, has so far revealed the same properties as embryonic stem cells (ESCs), making their discovery potentially very beneficial for scientists and ethicists alike.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

"Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Blastocytes" (1998), by James Thomson

After becoming chief pathologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Regional Primate Center in 1995, James A. Thomson began his pioneering work in deriving embryonic stem cells from isolated embryos. That same year, Thomson published his first paper, "Isolation of a Primate Embryonic Stem Cell Line," in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, detailing the first derivation of primate embryonic stem cells. In the following years, Thomson and his team of scientists - Joseph Itskovitz-Eldor, Sander S. Shapiro, Michelle A.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

Joseph Needham (1900-1995)

Joseph Needham was an embryologist and biochemist who is most noted in science for his studies on induction in developing embryos. Needham worked with Conrad Hal Waddington to attempt to identify the compound responsible for the organizer's activity. Although he was not successful in discovering the chemical, he and Waddington learned much about the organizer. Needham was a meticulous writer, writing reviews and books about contemporary research.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Epidermal Growth Factor

Epidermal growth factor is a signaling molecule that stimulates the growth of epidermal tissues during development and throughout life. Stanley Cohen discovered epidermal growth factor (EGF) during studies of nerve growth factor as a side effect of other experiments. EGF stimulates tissue growth by initiating a variety of cellular mechanisms. This work led to the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Stanley Cohen (1922- )

Stanley Cohen is a biochemist who participated in the discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF). He shared the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Rita Levi-Montalcini for their work on the discovery of growth factors. His work led to the discovery of many other growth factors and their roles in development.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Pregnancy Complicating Diabetes" (1949), by Priscilla White

In 1949, Priscilla White published Pregnancy Complicating Diabetes, which described the results and implications of a fifteen-year study about pregnant diabetic women. Published in the American Journal of Medicine, the article details possible causes of and ways to prevent the high fetal mortality rate associated with pregnant diabetic women. Diabetes is a disease in which the body's ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, and it can be particularly dangerous during pregnancies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Management of Myelomeningocele Study Clinical Trial (2003–2010)

From February 2003 to December 2010, researchers of the Management of Myelomeningocele Study, or MOMS, clinical trial compared the safety and efficacy of different treatments for a specific type of spina bifida, called myelomeningocele. Myelomeningocele, the most frequent and severe form of spina bifida, is a condition in which the bony spinal column does not develop correctly, which causes an opening of the spine, exposure of the spinal cord, and formation of a small sac containing cerebrospinal fluid.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Leonard Colebrook’s Use of Sulfonamides as a Treatment for Puerperal Fever (1935–1937)

Between 1935 and 1937, Leonard Colebrook showed that sulfonamides, a class of antibacterial drugs, worked as an effective treatment for puerperal fever. Puerperal fever is a bacterial infection that can occur in the uterus of women after giving birth. At the time of Colebrook’s study, puerperal fever remained a common disease due to both the lack of hygienic practices in hospitals and a treatment for the disease. After successfully using Prontosil, a sulfanilamide, to cure a patient who was going to die from puerperal fever, Colebrook began experiments with the drug.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“Of Pregnancy and Progeny” (1980), by Norbert Freinkel

Norbert Freinkel’s lecture Of Pregnancy and Progeny was published by the American Diabetes Association’s journal Diabetes in December of 1980. In the lecture, Freinkel argued that pregnancy changes the way that the female body breaks down and uses food. Through experiments that involved pregnant women as well as infants, Freinkel established the body’s maternal metabolism and how it affects both the mother and the infant. Freinkel’s main focus of research in the latter part of his life was diabetes, specifically in pregnant women.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Sheep Cloned by Nuclear Transfer from a Cultured Cell Line" (1996), by Keith Campbell, Jim McWhir, William Ritchie, and Ian Wilmut

In 1995 and 1996, researchers at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, cloned mammals for the first time. Keith Campbell, Jim McWhir, William Ritchie, and Ian Wilmut cloned two sheep, Megan and Morag, using sheep embryo cells. The experiments indicated how to reprogram nuclei from differentiated cells to produce live offspring, and that a single population of differentiated cells could produce multiple offspring. They reported their results in the article 'Sheep Cloned by Nuclear Transfer from a Cultured Cell Line' in March 1996.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

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

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