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Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP)
Subject: Technologies, Disorders
Emil von Behring (1854–1917)
Emil von Behring researched treatments for the common childhood disease diphtheria in Germany in the 1890s and early 1900s. Diphtheria is a lethal disease that infected approximately 40,000 people in Germany between 1886 and 1888 with a general mortality rate of twenty-five percent. Behring investigated treatment of diphtheria using serum therapy, which is an alternative to vaccination that uses protective agents from other people’s blood to defend a patient against disease. Behring termed those protective agents antitoxins.
A Series of YouTube Videos Detailing the “CRISPR Babies” Experiment (2018), by He Jiankui
In 2018, He Jiankui uploaded a series of videos to a YouTube channel titled “The He Lab” that detailed one of the first instances of a successful human birth after genome editing had been performed on an embryo using CRISPR-cas9. CRISPR-cas9 is a genome editing tool derived from bacteria that can be used to cut out and replace specific sequences of DNA. He genetically modified embryos at his lab in Shenzhen, China, to make them immune to contracting HIV through indirect perinatal transmission from their father, who was infected with the virus.
Subject: Publications, Experiments, Ethics
Ernest John Christopher Polge (1926-2006)
Twentieth-century researcher Ernest John Christopher Polge studied the reproductive processes of livestock and determined a method to successfully freeze, thaw, and utilize viable sperm cells to produce offspring in animals. In 1949, Polge identified glycerol as a cryoprotectant, or a medium that enables cells to freeze without damaging their cellular components or functions. Several years later, Polge used glycerol in a freezing process called vitrification, which enabled him to freeze poultry sperm, thaw that sperm, and use it to fertilize vertebrate embryos.
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
The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics (1924), by Paul Kammerer
The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics is a book published in 1924, written by Paul Kammerer, who studied developmental biology in Vienna, Austria, in the early twentieth century. The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics summarizes Kammerer's experiments, and explains their significance. In his book, Kammerer aims to explain how offspring inherit traits from their parents. Some scholars criticized Kammerer's reports and interpretations, arguing that they were inaccurate and misleading, while others supported Kammerer's work.
Subject: Publications, Theories
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is located outside the nucleus in the liquid portion of the cell (cytoplasm) inside cellular organelles called Mitochondria. Mitochondria are located in all complex or eukaryotic cells, including plant, animal, fungi, and single celled protists, which contain their own mtDNA genome. In animals with a backbone, or vertebrates, mtDNA is a double stranded, circular molecule that forms a circular genome, which ranges in size from sixteen to eighteen kilo-base pairs, depending on species. Each mitochondrion in a cell can have multiple copies of the mtDNA genome.
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.
Subject: Reproduction, Technologies
Harald zur Hausen (1936–)
Harald zur Hausen studied viruses and discovered that certain strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease, can cause cervical cancer, in Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Zur Hausen spent his research career identifying the viruses that cause diseases, particularly cancer-causing viruses (oncoviruses). He primarily focused on HPV and cervical cancer. Zur Hausen hypothesized that HPV was cancerous and discovered that two strains, HPV 16 and 18, caused cervical cancer.
“Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain: Epidemiological Evidence of the Relationship and Implications” (2005), by Arnaud Fauconnier and Charles Chapron
Arnaud Fauconnier and Charles Chapron published “Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain: Epidemiological Evidence of the Relationship and Implications,” henceforth “Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain,” in the journal Human Reproduction Update in 2005. In that article, the researchers studied the relationship between pelvic pain and endometriosis. Endometriosis is the growth of endometrium, or tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus, outside of the uterus. The authors review medical studies in order to determine how much evidence exists that endometriosis causes chronic pelvic pain symptoms.
Amenorrhea as a Menstrual Disorder
Amenorrhea is considered a type of abnormal menstrual bleeding characterized by the unexpected absence of menstrual bleeding, lasting three months or longer. Menstrual bleeding typically happens approximately once a month when blood and endometrial tissue, or tissue lining the inside of the uterus, sheds from the uterus through the vagina. Menstruation is expected to stop with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause, or the natural cessation of the menstrual cycle at an older age.
Subject: Disorders, Reproduction
The Baby Makers (2012)
In 2012, the production company Waddell Media Production released the documentary The Baby Makers. The four-part series, directed and produced by Edel O’Mahony, follows multiple couples in Northern Ireland struggling with infertility problems as they utilize different treatments such as in vitro fertilization, or IVF, egg donation, and egg freezing. IVF is a procedure in which a woman’s egg is fertilized by a sperm outside of her body. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, a fertility doctor places the fertilized egg back into the woman’s uterus.
Regeneration is a fascinating phenomenon. The fact that many organisms have the capacity to regenerate lost parts and even remake complete copies of themselves is difficult to fathom; so difficult, in fact, that for a very long time people were reluctant to believe regeneration actually took place. It seemed unbelievable that some organisms could re-grow lost limbs, organs, and other body parts. If only we could do the same!
Moore v. Regents of the University of California (1990)
On 9 July 1990, in Moore v. Regents of the University of California, the Supreme Court of California ruled in a four-to-three decision that individuals do not have rights to a share in profits earned from research performed on their bodily materials. In its decision, the Supreme Court of California ruled that cancer patient John L. Moore did not have personal property rights to samples or fluids that his physicians took from his body for research purposes.
Sex Determination in Humans
In humans, sex determination is the process that determines the biological sex of an offspring and, as a result, the sexual characteristics that they will develop. Humans typically develop as either male or female, primarily depending on the combination of sex chromosomes that they inherit from their parents. The human sex chromosomes, called X and Y, are structures in human cells made up of tightly bound deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, and proteins.