Artificial wombs progress

Science Daily reports yet another breakthrough in the development of artificial wombs. Researchers are now able to keep extremely premature lamb fetuses alive in an artificial uterus. If this development continues, it will be possible in the foreseeable future that the entire gestation could happen outside the body.

Though this kind of research is primarily motivated by taking care of (extreme) premature babies, there are several other applications for “ex vivo” pregnancies.

Even though women have increasing career opportunities in modern society, pregnancy is still a major obstacle for professional women, who also want to start a family. The option to use an artificial womb will eliminate a fundamental cause of gender inequality in society and hence will increase the freedom of choice for women.

Also the availability of artificial uteri will eliminate the need for (commercial) surrogacy. This industry is heavily associated with the exploitation of vulnerable women, who are often paid a meager sum of money while being exposed to great health risks.

A bit more controversial this technology could reconcile both “pro-choice” and “pro-life” sides of the abortion debate. Women with unwanted pregnancies could opt to transfer the fetuses to an artificial womb, which would later be adopted. Or to save both mother and child in case of a pregnancy with serious complications.

2 thoughts on “Artificial wombs progress”

  1. Very cool, though I’d wager this still has a ways to go with humans…they still have to work at the very beginning of the process, i.e the implantation of the fertilized embryo in the placental wall, right?

    1. You’re absolutely right. Though on the other side, scientists are also able to keep fresh embryos alive in a petri dish for a longer period after fertilization. So if both trends continue there will be a critical moment where they will intersect. We’ll have to see how that goes.

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