Irving Freiler Stein Sr. was a physician who studied women’s reproductive health during the twentieth century in the United States. In partnership with his colleague, Michael Leventhal, Stein identified a women’s reproductive disorder related to elevated male sex hormones, or androgens. The syndrome was originally called Stein-Leventhal syndrome and later known as polycystic ovarian syndrome. While studying the syndrome, Stein also helped establish a treatment for the condition, through the surgical removal of ovarian tissues. Stein identified the symptoms related to the condition polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal imbalance estimated to be the most common female reproductive disorder as of 2017.

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. Those are molecules that contain the instructions for the development and functioning of all life forms, including the development of physical traits and body parts that correspond with each biological sex. Humans who inherit two X chromosomes typically develop as females, while humans with one X and one Y chromosome typically develop as males. Sex determination is the beginning of the development of many characteristics that influence how a human looks and functions as well as the societal expectations that other humans have for each other.

Between 1958 and 1962, physicians Olive W. Smith, George V. Smith, and Robert W. Kistner performed experiments that demonstrated the effects of the drugs MER-25 and clomiphene citrate on the female human body. MER-25 and clomiphene citrate are drugs that affect estrogen production in women. At the time of the experiment, researchers did not know which organ or organs the drugs affected, the ovaries and/or the anterior pituitary gland. To determine that, the physicians reviewed nine of their own previous studies in women in which they measured the urinary output of hormones after the administration of either drug. Based on their examination the researchers concluded that MER-25 appeared to influence the anterior pituitary gland in the brain to produce a response in the ovaries and that clomiphene citrate appeared to act on the ovaries. Their results provided early evidence about the mechanisms of both drugs. Later, clomiphene citrate became a common fertility drug.

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