Hastings Center issues report on reprogenetics’

Ethicists at the Hastings Center have issued a guidance document on the need for and potential of public oversight of "reprogenetics" research, their term for research that involves the intersection of reproductive medicine and the manipulation of gametes and embryos.

The report, Reprogenetics and Public Policy: Reflections and Recommendations, is the culmination of a two-year research project by the center. In it, authors Erik Parens and Lori Knowles argue that the complex ethical questions this type of research raises should not be resolved by market forces alone but need to be addressed by broad public discussion and oversight.

The report makes three policy recommendations:

1. The ban on federally funded embryo research should be lifted in order to allow federal oversight of such practices as preimplantation genetic diagnosis, ooplasm transfer, cloning and embryonic stem cell research. If the ban is not lifted, the market will remain the only mechanism regulating development of these technologies.

2. A commission should be established to consolidate the data on this topic and make legislative recommendations about statutory authority for an oversight group. The commission would be able to frame issues through engaging the public and experts and articulating ethical commitments. Ultimately, it would present legislative initiatives to Congress.

3. The commission, when established, should consider calling for a federal Reprogenetics Technologies Board that would have oversight authority of both public and private sectors.

The consequences of reprogenetic practice could be far reaching, the authors note, extending from the alteration of individual physiologies to reconfigurations of how a society views and treats its members. For these and other reasons, the direction of the research must not be left up to the market alone and an oversight system is needed.

NIH expanding distance learning programs

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center has extended its clinical research training programs to reach more than 1,000 physicians and other health professionals this year, in locations as far away as Peru and Puerto Rico. Improving clinical research training is a major initiative of the NIH roadmap, introduced by NIH in November.

This year, 1,426 students are enrolled in three core courses, "Introduction to the Principles and Practice of Clinical Research," "Principles of Clinical Pharmacology," and "Ethical and Regulatory Aspects of Clinical Research." They are available not only to NIH researchers, but are transmitted by satellite or web videocast to remote locations.

Additional information on these courses can be obtained from the Clinical Center Office of Clinical Research Training and Medical Education (director Frederick P. Ognibene, MD, and deputy director, DeNedra McPherson) at (301) 496-9425.