Ectogenesis – essentially a pregnancy occurring in an artificial environment – may become a reality, with scientists looking into the possibility of developing artificial wombs.
Currently, advancement in neonatal intensive care has meant that human fetuses can be kept alive at a much lower gestational age than many years ago; some fetuses manage to survive even when born at 22 weeks. The NICU can only do so much however, and premature baby’s survival will also depend on the ability of its lungs and other organs to function. Once delivered, premature babies have to use their lungs to breathe and receive food via their gastrointestinal tract, rather than receive oxygen from nourished blood through the placenta and umbilical cord.
The possibility of artificial wombs may remove these limitations.
In the past, Japanese researchers in the 1990s maintained goat fetuses for several weeks in a machine that was filled with artificial amniotic fluid. While replicating this concept for human fetuses may help solve some issues with fertility for couples, it does raise a range of social as well as ethical concerns.
Would you have concerns with an artificial womb for human babies, or feel excited for its development?