One million children have been born worldwide as a result of assisted reproductive technologies, yet the effects of these procedures on the health and development of the resulting children is unclear. While some medical studies suggest that ART children are as healthy as their naturally conceived peers, others associate ART with a higher incidence of cancer, birth defects and genetic diseases. "Parents and health care providers need access to accurate information on the health and developmental risks associated with these technologies," said Kathy Hudson, director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins.
To assess current medical knowledge about the health and development of ART children and make recommendations for future research priorities, the Genetics and Public Policy Center has established the ART Children's Health Panel. This expert panel, co-sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, will review the scientific literature and produce a report outlining its findings and recommendations. The report is expected by fall 2003.
The ART Children's Health Panel will evaluate scientific and medical studies on the health of children born through in vitro fertilization, intracytoplasmic sperm injection and embryo cryopreservation, and those born after having preimplantation genetic diagnosis. The panel's report will identify where current data are conflicting or inconclusive and make recommendations for future research.
The five panelists are leading experts in pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, epidemiology and genetics. Chaired by Steven N. Goodman, an associate professor of oncology and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins, the panel includes Marcelle I. Cedars, University of California, San Francisco; Judith Hall, University of British Columbia; Joe Leigh Simpson, Baylor College of Medicine; and Arnold W. Strauss, Vanderbilt University.
"This study is intended to provide greater clarity on the safety and efficacy of IVF, the underlying technology that feeds all advanced reproductive techniques," said Sandra Carson, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Russell Chesney, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Pediatric Research, said, "Through this study we hope to understand the impact of ART on children's health and development in a way that will inform and guide future research, its use and the oversight of ART-based therapies."
The Genetics and Public Policy Center is a part of the Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute at Johns Hopkins and is funded through a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. The center's mission is to create the environment and the tools needed by decision makers in both the private and public sectors to carefully consider and respond to the challenges and opportunities that arise from scientific advances in genetics.