On Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2002, Popular Science Life Sciences Editor Rebecca Skloot, Bill and Susan McNamara -- a couple who had three children with assisted reproductive technology -- and Kathy Hudson, Ph.D., the Director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center of Johns Hopkins University, participated in an infertility chat on America Online.
Welcome to our Infertility Chat. Tonight we have Rebecca Skloot, author of the Popular Science article, Susan and Bill McNamara, featured in the story, and Kathy Hudson, Ph.D., Director of the Genetic and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins. We will be taking your questions now. Thank you for attending.
What were the final findings in the Popular Science article?
Infertility treatments have been around since the 70's and about a million children have been born. Today these treatments are very common and have brought children into the lives of many people who would not have been able to have them. But several recent studies have shown that there may be a significant increase in birth defects from these treatments. These studies are not conclusive yet. But at this point, there have been enough that we need more serious research to determine how real these risks are, what the long term effects of ART may be, and what can be done to make it safer. There aren't animal models that accurately represent human reproduction so some of this may have to be done in human embryos. If that is the case, our research should be funded by the government to ensure oversight. Either way, some sort of regulatory body should be established to oversee this ART research.
Which infertility treatment(s) did you use and how long did it take you to conceive?
The McNamaras: We did in vitro fertilization and we got pregnant on the fifth try. The reason it took that long is I was misdiagnosed. An improperly done HSG was culprit, it was read wrong. So they thought I was a DES daughter but in fact, I only had a septum in my uterus. Once that was corrected, I got pregnant doing IVF. DES is a drug of the 50's and 60's for miscarriages that now is known to cause birth defects in their children. HSG is Hysterosalpingogram.
How common is it for the female immune system to attack the sperm?
I'm sorry, we don't know the precise statistics but we have encountered several people who have had this.
We've done ICSI 3x, no pregnancy and are going for a fourth time. What protocol did you use?
The protocol was the sperm wash, ICSI process. Then the eggs were co-cultured and then transferred.
What was your reaction to the information you received?
The McNamaras: From the article, I was kind of upset with the title. The process described in the title had very little to do with the article. The fact that Popular Science has in essence of accusing us of experimentation on our children. I take great issue with that. As far as the technical information in the article, I'm trying to find out more. I wish they had put more in the article about where the information came from.
The Popular Science article says the McNamara children were grown on a piece of cow womb before implantation, but that this method is now restricted by the FDA. Does that mean this method is not available to infertile couples at this time?
Yes, that is what this means. Is the FDA requiring doctors to tell their patients about the risks? The answer is no.