Growing a baby outside the womb is known as ectogenesis (or exogenesis). Artificial womb technology, also known as extra-uterine support systems or ex utero intrapartum treatment (EXIT) devices, refers to a system that is designed to support the development and growth of a fetus outside of the uterus. This technology has the potential to be used in a variety of medical situations, including preterm birth, where a fetus is delivered before it is fully developed and capable of surviving outside the womb.
When Artificial Wombs Could Help Premature Babies?
With Artificial womb the goal of improving the survival and quality of life of extremely premature babies. These babies, born before 22 weeks of gestation, currently have little chance of survival and those born at 23 weeks are at risk of suffering from various disabilities. Artificial womb technology involves the use of a sealed “biobag” that provides a fetal environment similar to the uterus, including oxygen, a substitute for amniotic fluid, and access to the umbilical cord for nutrients, water, and medication if needed.
Experiment on Lamb in Artificial Womb
Various research initiatives have targeted the development of artificial womb technology, yet the majority of these systems have primarily undergone testing on animals. Some researchers have been able to successfully keep preterm lambs alive and growing using artificial womb systems, but it is not yet clear when or if these systems will be available for use in humans.
What are the Biggest Barriers to Artificial Wombs?
Overcoming technical and ethical challenges is crucial for the successful development and implementation of artificial wombs. Some of the biggest barriers include:
Technical feasibility: Developing an artificial womb that can effectively support the growth and development of a fetus is a complex and challenging task. Researchers need to find a way to replicate the natural environment of the uterus, including maintaining the proper temperature, pH balance, and nutrient levels.
Blood supply: As mentioned earlier, one of the main challenges in developing an artificial womb is finding a way to provide the uterine tissue with its own blood supply.
Ethical concerns: There are also many ethical concerns surrounding the use of artificial wombs, including the potential impact on reproductive rights and the potential for abuse or exploitation.
Social and cultural acceptance: Artificial wombs could potentially challenge traditional views on reproduction and parenting, and there may be resistance to their adoption from certain segments of society.
Cost: Developing and implementing artificial wombs is likely to be a costly process, which could limit their accessibility and affordability for many people.
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The first artificial Womb for Humans
The world’s first Artificial Womb Facility, EctoLife, could incubate up to 30,000 babies a year. On 22 July 1954 Emanuel M. Greenberg filed a patent on the design for an artificial womb. The patent included two images of the design for an artificial womb.
What is the cost of having a baby in an artificial womb?
When Will Artificial Wombs Be Available
Why Might We Need Artificial Wombs?
This emerging reproductive technology may allow women who are infertile, either due to physiological or social reasons, with the chance of having a child. It may also offer opportunities for transgender women and other women born without a uterus, or those who have lost their uterus due to cancer, injury or medical conditions, to have children.
Similarly, it could allow single men and gay male couples to become parents without needing a surrogate.