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Robert Geoffrey Edwards's Study of in vitro Mammalian Oocyte Maturation, 1960 to 1965

In a series of experiments between 1960 and 1965, Robert Geoffrey Edwards discovered how to make mammalian egg cells, or oocytes, mature outside of a female's body. Edwards, working at several research institutions in the UK during this period, studied in vitro fertilization (IVF) methods. He measured the conditions and timings for in vitro (out of the body) maturation of oocytes from diverse mammals including mice, rats, hamsters, pigs, cows, sheep, and rhesus monkeys, as well as humans.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Reproduction

Aristotle (384-322 BCE)

Aristotle studied developing organisms, among other things, in ancient Greece, and his writings shaped Western philosophy and natural science for greater than two thousand years. He spent much of his life in Greece and studied with Plato at Plato's Academy in Athens, where he later established his own school called the Lyceum. Aristotle wrote greater than 150 treatises on subjects ranging from aesthetics, politics, ethics, and natural philosophy, which include physics and biology. Less than fifty of Aristotle's treatises persisted into the twenty-first century.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (2007)

Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood) was the 2007 US Supreme Court case in which the Court declared the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 constitutional, making partial birth abortions illegal. In 2003, the US Congress passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which prohibited an abortion technique called partial birth abortion. A partial birth abortion is similar to, but not the same as, a Dilation and Extraction or D&X abortion, which is what the Ban was intended to prohibit. Gonzales v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

“Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus: Implications for Male Reproductive Function” (2007), by Ishola Agbaje, Deirdre Rogers, Carmel McVicar, Neil McClure, Albert Atkinson, Con Mallidis, and Sheena Lewis

In 2007, Ishola Agbaje, Deirdre Rogers, Carmel McVicar, Neil McClure, Albert Atkinson, Con Mallidis, and Sheena Lewis published “Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus: Implications for Male Reproductive Function,” hereby “Diabetes Mellitus: Implications,” in the journal Human Reproduction. In their article, the authors explore the effects of elevated blood sugar in the form of diabetes mellitus on the quality of male sperm.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Disorders

Pregnancy Tests

Throughout history methods involving urine have been a popular way to test for pregnancy. Early ideas ranged from simply observing the color of a woman's urine to the notion that the urine of pregnant women contains special crystals or secretions. Indeed, pregnancy testing can be traced back to 1350 BCE in Ancient Egypt. A written document from the time describes a process in which a woman would urinate on wheat and barley seeds over several days and, depending on which plant grew, both the woman's pregnancy status and the sex of the fetus could be determined.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, 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

Test-Tube Baby

A test-tube baby is the product of a successful human reproduction that results from methods beyond sexual intercourse between a man and a woman and instead utilizes medical intervention that manipulates both the egg and sperm cells for successful fertilization. The term was originally used to refer to the babies born from the earliest applications of artificial insemination and has now been expanded to refer to children born through the use of in vitro fertilization, the practice of fertilizing an embryo outside of a woman's body.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Ethics, Reproduction

"Reproductive Options for HIV-Serodiscordant Couples” (2006) by Pablo Barreiro, Ann Duerr, Karen Beckerman, and Vincent Soriano

In July 2006, scientist Pablo Barreiro and colleagues published “Reproduction Options for HIV-Serodiscordant Couples,” in which they recommended methods for human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, serodiscordant couples to procreate. An HIV-serodiscordant couple is one in which one partner is HIV-positive, meaning they carry HIV, and the other is HIV-negative, meaning they do not carry the virus. HIV is a virus that can spread by sexual contact and it attacks the immune system, causing a person with the virus to have weakened responses to illnesses.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

“What Can We Do About Cancer? The Most Vital and Insistent Question in the Medical World” (1913), by Samuel Hopkins Adams

In 1913, journalist Samuel Hopkins Adams published “What Can We Do About Cancer? The Most Vital and Insistent Question in the Medical World,” hereafter “What Can We Do About Cancer,” in Ladies’ Home Journal. Cancer is a disease that is the result of abnormal cell division in different parts of the body, such as the breasts or the cervix. During that time, many women did not discuss or disclose early symptoms of reproductive cancers, such as breast lumps and abnormal vaginal discharge, out of shame or disgust. Thus, people often considered cancer to be a taboo topic.

Subject: Publications

The Development of Mifepristone for Use in Medication Abortions

In the 1980s, researchers at the pharmaceutical company Roussel-Uclaf in Paris, France, helped develop a biological compound called mifepristone. When a woman takes it, mifepristone interferes with the function of hormones involved in pregnancy and it can therefore be used to terminate pregnancies. In 2000, the US Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, also called RU 486, as part of a treatment to induce abortions using drugs instead of surgery, a method called medication abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction

“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

Harald zur Hausen's Experiments on Human Papillomavirus Causing Cervical Cancer (1976–1987)

From 1977 to 1987, Harald zur Hausen led a team of researchers across several institutions in Germany to investigate whether the human papillomavirus (HPV) caused cervical cancer. Zur Hausen's first experiment tested the hypothesis that HPV caused cervical cancer rather than herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), the then accepted cause. His second and third experiments detailed methods to identify two previously unidentified HPV strains, HPV 16 and HPV 18, in cervical cancer tumor samples. The experiments showed that HPV 16 and 18 DNA were present in cervical tumor samples.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

“General Considerations for the Clinical Evaluation of Drugs” (1977), by the United States Food and Drug Administration

The United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, published 'General Considerations for the Clinical Evaluation of Drugs,' in September 1977. The document defined acceptable practices for investigators who studied new drugs. Specifically, the document outlined the common clinical trial methods. Clinical trials are studies to test whether a new drug is safe before doctors can prescribe it to patients. Prior to 1977, the Protection of Human Subjects Rule primarily regulated clinical drug trials, but it did not specify who could and could not be included in clinical trials.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

The Arterial Switch Operation (1954-1975)

The arterial switch operation, also called the Jatene procedure, is an operation in which surgeons redirect the flow of blood through abnormal hearts. In 1975, Adib Jatene conducted the first successful arterial switch operation on a human infant. The arterial switch operation corrects a condition called transposition of the great arteries, abbreviated TGA, also called transposition of the great vessels, abbreviated TGV. TGA occurs when the pulmonary artery, which supplies deoxygenated blood to the lungs, and the aorta, which takes oxygenated blood to the body, are switched, or transposed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

“Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes Associated with a Trial of Labor after Prior Cesarean Delivery” (2004), Mark B. Landon et al.

In 2004 Mark Landon and his colleagues in the United States published “Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes Associated with a Trial of Labor after Prior Cesarean Delivery,” which compared the risks of vaginal delivery and cesarean section for delivery of a fetus after a previous cesarean delivery. During a cesarean section, a physician surgically removes a fetus from a pregnant woman through an incision in her abdomen. By the late 1900s, most clinical guidelines viewed attempting a vaginal birth after a previous cesarean delivery as a reasonable option for most women.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"On the Permanent Life of Tissues outside of the Organism" (1912), by Alexis Carrel

'On the Permanent Life of Tissues outside of the Organism' reports Alexis Carrel's 1912 experiments on the maintenance of tissue in culture media. At the time, Carrel was a French surgeon and biologist working at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City. In his paper, Carrel reported that he had successfully maintained tissue cultures, which derived from connective tissues of developing chicks and other tissue sources, by serially culturing them.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Embryo Blotting Paper Models

Anatomical models have always been a mainstay of descriptive embryology. As the training of embryologists grew in the late 1800s, so too did the need for large-scale teaching models. Embryo wax models, such as those made by Adolf Ziegler and Gustav Born, were popular in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century as a way to visualize, in three dimensions, the fine detail of embryos without the aid of a microscope.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

The Apgar Score (1953-1958)

In 1952 Virginia Apgar, a physician at the Sloane Women’s Hospital in New York City, New York, created the Apgar score as a method of evaluating newborn infants’ health to determine if they required medical intervention. The score included five separate categories, including heart rate, breathing rate, reaction to stimuli, muscle activity, and color. An infant received a score from zero to two in each category, and those scores added up to the infant’s total score out of ten. An infant with a score of ten was healthy, and those with low scores required medical attention at birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Processes

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test for Gestational Diabetes

In the twentieth century, researchers developed the oral glucose tolerance test, or OGTT, as a method to diagnose different types of diabetes, a medical condition that causes blood sugar levels to become abnormally high. During the test, a healthcare provider measures a person’s blood sugar levels before and after the person consumes a predetermined amount of glucose solution. While not exclusively used for pregnant women, an OGTT may test for gestational diabetes which, according to the International Diabetes Federation, affected one in six pregnancies worldwide in 2019.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction, Experiments

Jane Marion Oppenheimer (1911-1966)

Jane Marion Oppenheimer, embryologist and historian of science and medicine, was born on 19 September 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Sylvia Stern and James H. Oppenheimer. After studying zoology at Bryn Mawr College, Oppenheimer received her AB degree in 1932. Oppenheimer received her PhD in embryology at Yale University in 1935 and worked as a research fellow from 1935-1936. While at Yale she was influenced by the work of Ross Granville Harrison and John Spangler Nicholas, the latter of whom was Oppenheimer's PhD advisor.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The First Successful Cloning of a Gaur (2000), by Advanced Cell Technology

Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), a stem cell biotechnology company in Worcester, Massachusetts, showed the potential for cloning to contribute to conservation efforts. In 2000 ACT researchers in the United States cloned a gaur (Bos gaurus), an Asian ox with a then declining wild population. The researchers used cryopreserved gaur skin cells combined with an embryo of a domestic cow (Bos taurus). A domestic cow also served as the surrogate for the developing gaur clone.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

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

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Leonardo da Vinci was born on 15 April 1452, the illegitimate son of a young peasant girl by the name of Caterina and Ser Piero da Vinci, a well-renowned Florentine notary. Leonardo lived in Italy in the town of Vinci until his late teens and received a simple education in reading and writing as well as some training in mathematics and engineering. Although he was socially excluded by birthright from almost every profession and prohibited from attending any formal university, Leonardo went on to become a celebrated scientist, artist, and engineer.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Carnegie Stages

Historically the exact age of human embryo specimens has long perplexed embryologists. With the menstrual history of the mother often unknown or not exact, and the premenstrual and postmenstrual phases varying considerably among women, age sometimes came down to a best guess based on the weight and size of the embryo. Wilhelm His was one of the first to write comparative descriptions of human embryos in the late 1800s. Soon afterward, Franklin P. Mall, the first director of the Carnegie Institution of Washington's (CIW) Department of Embryology, expanded upon His' work.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories