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. That discovery led to improved diagnosis of cervical cancer and the later development of the HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix. In 2008, zur Hausen won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
In 2006, United States pharmaceutical company Merck released the Gardasil vaccination series, which protected recipients against four strains of Human Papillomaviruses, or HPV. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection which may be asymptomatic or cause symptoms such as genital warts, and is linked to cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, head, neck, and face cancers. In 2006, based on research conducted by researchers Ian Frazer and Jian Zhou in the 1990s, Merck released a four-strain version of Gardasil, which protected boys and girls aged nine and older against the major HPV strains HPV-6, HPV-11, HPV-16, and HPV-18. In 2014, Merck released Gardasil 9, a nine-strain version that protected from the original four HPV strains plus strains HPV-31, HPV-33, HPV-45, and HPV-58. Gardasil is a preventative measure and reduces the risk of contracting HPV and HPV-related cancers by up to ninety-seven percent.
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. Zur Hausen concluded that HPV, not HSV-2, caused cervical cancer, which enabled researchers to develop preventions, such as the HPV vaccine.
Gattaca is a 1997 science fiction film produced in the US that depicts a future society that uses reproductive technology and genetic engineering in order to produce genetically enhanced human beings. By selectively choosing certain genes, scientists and physicians ensure that individuals born using reproductive technologies have desirable physical and psychological traits and prevent undesirable traits. The film tells a story of Vincent Freeman, a man conceived without the aid of reproductive technology, who works to overcome his genetic disadvantages compared to his enhanced counterparts in order to achieve his dream of a career in space travel. The film was directed and written by Andrew Niccol and released by Columbia Pictures in Culver City, California, on 24 October 1997. Gattaca addresses the ethical uses of biotechnology, gene manipulation, and genetic engineering, and the film helps illustrate the debate over human genetic engineering research and implications.
Where Are My Children? is an anti-abortion silent film released in the United States on 16 April 1916. The film was directed by Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley and produced by Universal Film Manufacturing Company/Lois Weber Productions in Universal City, California. In the film, Weber tells a story of an attorney who wants to have children and raise a family, but his wife chooses to abort her pregnancies, fearing that having children will ruin her social activities. In the early 1900s, information about contraception was not freely available or legal to obtain. Physicians were allowed to distribute contraceptives only if the woman would be put in a life-threatening circumstance were she to get pregnant. In the film, Weber encourages contraceptives as a means of family planning, but advocates against abortions. Where Are My Children? is one of the first films to discuss birth control and family planning, and it is among the first to push against motion picture censorship of contraception and family planning in cinema.
Собачье сердце (Heart of a Dog) is a novella written in 1925 by author and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov in Moscow, USSR, later Russia. An early English translation was published in 1968. Heart of a Dog tells the story of a stray dog named Sharik, who is found by a surgeon, and undergoes extensive surgery for experimental purposes to create a New Soviet man, someone committed to the ideals of communism in the Soviet Union. In Heart of a Dog, Bulgakov satirizes the communist revolution in the Soviet Union and the concept of a New Soviet man, and criticizes the science and practice of eugenics.
Tomorrow's Children is a film that tells the story of Alice Mason, a young woman whom the US government forcibly sterilizes because she comes from a family with a history of alcoholism, mental illnesses, and physical disabilities, traits that they considered biologically determined and inferior. The film, released in 1934, was directed by Crane Wilbur, produced by Bryan Foy, written by Wilbur and Wallace Thurman, and released by Foy Productions Ltd. Tomorrow's Children criticized forced sterilization and the eugenics movement in the United States in addition to protesting film censorship regulations in the early 1900s.
The Boys from Brazil is a science fiction film based on the novel of the same name by Ira Levin about an underground neo-Nazi society in South America trying to clone Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Nazi Germany during World War II, to restore the Nazi movement. The film was directed by Franklin Schaffner and released in 1978 by 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles, California. The Boys from Brazil is a film that was one of the first films to depict cloning, and to discuss the ethical implications of genetic engineering, cloning, and eugenics.
In 2011, United Kingdom pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline released Cervarix, a vaccination series protecting girls and women from two strains of Human Papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV, a sexually transmitted infection, can present in men and women without symptoms, or may cause symptoms such as genital warts. There is a link between HPV and cervical, vaginal, anal, head, neck, and face cancers, and Cervarix can reduce genital cancers in girls and women, particularly cervical cancer. Gardasil, a similar vaccination against HPV, approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA and available in the US in June 2006 was on the market five years prior to Cervarix’s approval in October 2009. In 2014, because of the heightened cost and lesser coverage, the US market discontinued Cervarix, but as of 2019, it remains popular in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom. Cervarix is the first HPV vaccine administered in China.