In 1873 Italy, Camillo Golgi created the black reaction technique, which enabled scientists to stain and view the structure of neurons, the specialized cells that compose the nervous system. During the nineteenth century, scientists were studying cells and proposed cell theory, which describes the basic characteristics of cells as fundamental units of life. However, cell theory struggled to explain neurons as they are specialized cells and more complex in structure than cells of other tissues. Prior to Golgi’s black reaction, other neuron staining techniques did not enable scientists to clearly and completely view entire neurons without damaging the tissue and obscuring the form. By enabling scientists to study individual neurons and neural tissues, Golgi’s black reaction enables researchers to better study the nervous system and how it develops.
In October 2013, Jürgen Dinger, Sabine Möhner, and Klaas Heinemann published the article “Cardiovascular Risk Associated With the Use of an Etonogestrel-Containing Vaginal Ring,” hereafter “Cardiovascular Risk,” in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors enrolled patients in the study who were new users of either a vaginal contraceptive ring known as NuvaRing or a combined oral contraceptive pill. A combined oral contraceptive pill contains a formulation of the hormones progesterone and estrogen. They followed up with the patients for two to four years after they had started either hormonal contraceptive treatment to record the incidence of specific cardiovascular events. The authors found that the risks of cardiovascular events when starting use of either NuvaRing or a combined hormonal contraceptive pill were similar to each other in the patients they studied. The results of “Cardiovascular Risk” affirmed the results of similar studies and stated that the risk of cardiovascular events was similar in NuvaRing users to other contraceptive users.
Clomiphene citrate, more commonly known by its brand names Clomid and Serophene, is a medication prescribed to women to stimulate ovulation in order to treat infertility. It stimulates ovulation in women who do not ovulate or ovulate irregularly. This drug was created by Dr. Frank Palopoli in 1956 while he worked for Merrell Company. It first successfully induced ovulation in women in 1961 and was approved by the Federal and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1967. This medication can be used to help women conceive naturally, to time ovulation for intrauterine insemination, or to stimulate the maturation of eggs to be extracted and used in procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), and zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT).
In his 1991 article Screening for Congenital Hypothyroidism, Delbert A. Fisher in the US reported on the implementation and impact of mass neonatal screening programs for congenital hypothyroidism (CH) from the early 1970s through 1991. CH is a condition that causes stunted mental and physical development in newborns unless treatment begins within the first three months of the newborn's life. In the early 1970s, regions in Canada and the US had implemented screening programs to diagnose and treat CH as quickly as possible after the infant's birth. By 1991 many other countries had adopted the early screening program, and Fisher estimated that 10 to 12 million newborns per year were tested in the early 1990s. The screening programs, along with physician education and improved screening techniques, such as radioimmunoassay, helped significantly reduce the incidence of abnormal newborn development resulting from untreated congenital hypothyroidism.
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. Generally, the results from an OGTT can inform a patient and her physician how her body is responding to glucose during pregnancy, and high levels may increase her risk of developing adverse pregnancy outcomes such as heavy bleeding during delivery and a high blood pressure condition known as preeclampsia. An OGTT can help to accurately diagnose, treat, and monitor gestational diabetes in pregnant women, which can reduce health and pregnancy complications for the woman and the fetus.
The Edinburgh Mouse Atlas, also called the e-Mouse Atlas Project (EMAP), is an online resource comprised of the e-Mouse Atlas (EMA), a detailed digital model of mouse development, and the e-Mouse Atlas of Gene Expression (EMAGE), a database that identifies sites of gene expression in mouse embryos. Duncan Davidson and Richard Baldock founded the project in 1992, and the Medical Research Council (MRC) in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, funds the project. Davidson and Baldock announced the project in an article titled A Real Mouse for Your Computer, citing the need to manage and analyze the volume of data that overwhelmed developmental biologists. Though EMAP resources were distributed via CD-ROM in the early years, the project moved increasingly online by the early 2000s, and into the early decades of the twenty-first century, was in active development. EMAP can be utilized as a developmental biology teaching resource and as a research tool that enables scientists to explore annotated 3D virtual mouse embryos. EMAP's goal is to illuminate the molecular basis of tissue differentiation.
Ooplasmic transfer, also called cytoplasmic transfer, is an outside the body, in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique. Ooplasmic transfer in humans (Homo sapiens) is similar to in vitro fertilization (IVF), with a few additions. IVF is the process in which doctors manually combine an egg and sperm cells in a laboratory dish, as opposed to artificial insemination, which takes place in the female's body. For ooplasmic transfer, doctors withdraw cytoplasm from a donor's oocyte, and then they inject that cytoplasm with sperm into a patient's oocyte. Doctors perform ooplasmic transfer to replace mitochondria that have genetic defects, which can cause a variety of diseases. In 1982, Audrey Muggleton-Harris's group at MRC Laboratory Animals Center in Surrey, United Kingdom, developed the technique and reported the first successful mammalian ooplasmic transfer in mice (Mus musculus).
Transvaginal ultrasound-guided oocyte retrieval, also known as egg retrieval, is a surgical technique used by medical professionals to extract mature eggs directly from the women’s ovaries under the guidance of ultrasound imaging. In 1982, physicians Suzan Lenz and Jorgen Lauritsen at the University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark, proposed the technology to improve the egg collection aspect of in vitro fertilization, or IVF. During IVF, a healthcare practitioner must remove mature eggs from a woman’s ovaries to fertilize them with sperm outside of the body. Transvaginal ultrasound-guided egg retrieval is a surgery that can be completed in a medical office setting in twenty minutes. Transvaginal ultrasound-guided egg retrieval increased mature egg collection and rates of successful fertilization, becoming the new standard for egg collection in IVF.
In 2003, Carmina Gisbert and her research team produced a tobacco plant that could remove lead from soil. To do so, they inserted a gene from wheat plants that produces phytochelatin synthase into a shrub tobacco plant (Nicotiana glauca) to increase N. glauca's absorption and tolerance of toxic metals, particularly lead and cadmium. Gisbert and her team aimed to genetically modify a plant so that it could be used for phytoremediation- using plants to remove toxic substances from the soil. Scientists have identified phytoremediation as an effective and efficient process to improve human health and reproductive health in contaminated areas. Metals like mercury and lead can cause birth defects during human development like cognitive impairment, cerebral palsy, deafness, tremors, and blindness.
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. In the late 2000s, several studies showed that the grandchildren of women who had consumed DES also suffered medical issues. By the early decades of the twenty-first century, roughly ten million people in the US had been exposed to DES, and three generations of individuals had suffered medical issues due to DES exposure. Researchers class DES as an endocrine disruptor, which affects the form and function of the hormone (endocrine) system.