PS: What needs to be done to understand the risks ART might have?
KH: There is an enormous and really tragic paucity of data about the outcomes of ART. There needs to be follow up done to see what effects these procedures have, and who's going to fund this kind of work is a big question. This work is expensive, and for the feds it's scary and not high on their list of things to support, because it gets dangerously close to research on embryos.
PS: Yet there's such a huge debate over cloning, which raises similar issues.
KH: Right. There's an irony here that I just keep finding myself stumped over. Over the last several years, any number of groups have spent a lot of time and attention trying to figure out where they are on cloning, then advocating that position. But even in your wildest dreams, how widespread will reproductive cloning ever be? Is it going to be a real reproductive choice for my nine year-old when he decides that he's ready to build a family? Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we've got ARTs that are here and now. While any number of erudite bodies have sat around meeting tables talking about the necessity for broad public discussion about ART, there really has not been any. So that's one of our primary objectives.
PS: How does the Center hope to affect research and regulation?
KH: The natural progression of research is to do things in cell culture or animal models to look at safety issues and whether they're effective. Then, after you have a lot of animal data, you move into humans. Well that hasn't happened with ART. We're hoping to determine what research is needed to make the translation from research to clinical practice safely. Aside from this work and policy recommendations, our goal is to create recourses for the public and policy makers. We've created a website, www.dnapolicy.org, as an information resource, because until now, information on this issue -- including scientific, theological, ethical, and regulatory information -- has not been accessible in one place.
PS: What's the best case scenario for ART's future? What would you like to see happen next?
KH: It's too early in our data collection and analysis to be able to say for sure. But I think it is really clear that follow-up studies absolutely must be done to learn what the long-term effects of ART are.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.