According to a UCLA Health report, around 15% of women face problems while conceiving, and almost 47 million couples face the issue of infertility while planning a pregnancy. And obviously, the help has to come from technology, and that concept led to this article. Yes, of course, here is the technology called the artificial womb.
Before jumping straight into the topic, I want to ask you:
If, God forbid, you are in this situation, which method would you prefer for becoming parents; Surrogacy, IVF, adoption, or this concept of an artificial womb?
As of now, you may prefer one of the options or even an artificial womb, but after reading about the artificial womb, do share, if your choice will remain the same by the end of this article or not.
Infertility and pregnancy complications like miscarriage, premature birth, or sometimes the lives of mother and child are at stake.
However, many times there are situations when families need to decide between saving the mother or merely the child.
These are not the problems that have been faced recently. Some of these issues are inherited through generations because of genetic abnormalities.
Occasionally, challenges take place due to severe medical conditions, like the side effect of any operation or any illness.
In a few cases, accidents are also the cause.
In today’s world due to stressed life and unhealthy lifestyle, people encounter pregnancy issues many times.
Earlier, people used to face these types of issues while planning their pregnancy, but the number of people facing them was low compared to now.
So, now you may wonder why people back then didn’t come up with a solution.
A solution for couples, especially women, to face problems during their pregnancy phase.
1. First Few Perspectives Towards The Artificial Womb
Back in 1923, an English biologist named J.B.S. Haldene gave a lecture about “artificial wombs”.
The lecture took place at the University of Cambridge. The main motive behind Haldene’s lecture was to create a controversy.
During the lecture, he highlighted the study “Daedalus, or Science and the Future”.
In that biology students assumed a new perspective on childbirth by the year 2073.
The students talked about artificial wombs, but it was not precisely mentioned that it would happen with the help of technology.
The term technology itself was in the process of creating its proper meaning.
The students did mention one case where, in 1951, the ovaries of a woman who died in a plane crash were extracted.
Two scientists worked on this study by fertilizing her eggs, and then the fetus was brought into a stable condition through a suitable fluid.
This lecture was the first source where the artificial womb as a practical concept was mentioned to the whole world.
But during that, with an open mindset, Haldane gave the statement where he mentioned that by this women will be free from the bounds of pregnancy and sex.
And when it comes to reproduction, they will be disconnected.
And this whole concept would change society in a drastic way.
After which, in 1932, Aldous Huxley, in his novel “Brave New World”, depicted the whole imaginary new world where embryos could be fertilized in glass tubes, or we could say test tubes.
Then, in 1955, after researching assumptions, facts, and data collection and drawing conclusions, Emanuel M. Greenberg designed the whole blueprint of an artificial womb.
He even filed a patent for his design, which included a rectangle tank in which the fetus was placed with amniotic fluid, and then there were many machine parts connecting with that fetus.
2. From Theories to Practice, How the Artificial Womb Came into Existence
The above-mentioned perspective, or, you may say, the predicted future, was just on paper. People tried and failed to make the whole concept of an artificial womb a reality.
And of course, the whole theory was always the center point of controversial news.
People who are open-minded and who face problems related to pregnancy consider this a new light towards a great future.
But people with stereotypes and an old mindset have always opposed this theory.
And then, one fine year, research news amazed everyone in the world.
I think some of you have probably come across that article or seen the video and photographs.
The news was about how a premature lamb was kept alive in an artificial womb, but that artificial womb was nothing but a plastic bag.
This was a very famous news story that was circulated around the world in 2017.
But this operational experiment was only possible due to the supported case, which occurred before the premature lamb grew in the lab.
Dr. Jacob Hanna did a test of an artificial womb for mice at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
A prenatal development process of the embryo called the blastocyst was formed in the lab.
Mouse embryos were kept under observation, and an artificial environment like the uterus was created, you can name it an artificial womb.
Later, all the organs of the mouse started developing, and their heartbeat rate was 170 per minute.
Dr. Hanna experimented with this to know how an embryo can turn into a fully developed baby if we create a uterus-like artificial environment.
But the question then becomes, is it viable for human beings?
To get the answer, experimenting and researching it are a must.
Although it may look like an effortless and simple task, but no, it is not.
First, a few steps like fertilizing the egg into an embryo, might be possible, but then developing an embryo into a baby is a major risk.
And if any complication takes place, there will be strong outrage around the world.
3. EctoLife: Changing the Definition of Childbirth
A premature lamb was kept alive for weeks using a bio bag similar to a plastic bag that worked as an artificial womb.
The biobag contained a substance like blood supply which was rich in nutrients, amniotic fluid, gas exchange machine, etc.
This was a major success in research and gave the idea of delivery a completely different and new light.
This successful case inspired Hashem Ghaili who is a biotechnologist and a filmmaker. He created a whole animated video about an artificial womb facility known as EctoLife.
The whole process starts with Invitro fertilization, which is utilized to produce and choose the highly functional and superior genetically embryo.
This procedure itself is crucial since it aids the baby’s development without any biological obstacles.
After this step, the fertilized embryo is placed inside the growth pod.
It works as an artificial womb, or we can say it is an external womb.
The environment and condition of the uterus are created inside the growth pod. It is like a replica of a uterus.
Ectolife provides the monitoring of the physical features of the baby while you, as a parent, continue living and enjoying life while your baby is growing the lab.
Genetic reports and notifications for tracking your baby’s health will be sent on your phone.
It’s just like checking your Amazon product delivery through your phone.
Ectolife artificial womb facility also provides you with a wireless haptic suit that is connected to your baby’s growth pod.
In this way, you will be able to personally experience the sensation of your baby’s kick.
With the Elite package, you can even customize and engineer the embryo before implantation.
It might be shocking, but yes, it is possible by using a Crisper Cast 9 gene editing tool.
You can choose the traits of your baby by selecting genes out of the 300-plus range of genes.
Now you may think that the whole artificial womb facility is going to run on electricity, What if there’s a power cut and the lives of 3000 babies are at stake?
Ectolife claims that they will be using clean renewable energy like solar energy and wind power to run the whole facility.
Again, the question arises: How will you know that the baby is yours?
For that, they will provide a free DNA test to confirm the genetic identity of your baby. You will get assurance that the child is genetically yours.
Around 30 percent of women find the childbirth process a traumatic experience.
Instead of pushing while using the whole strength of the body and going through the pain of childbirth and related muscle contractions, in the future, baby delivery will be just a push of a button.
Premature infants can also be saved through the use of artificial wombs.
As of now, incubators are used, but sometimes doctors fail to save the life of a premature baby.
But then comes the thoughts about the emotional connection of a mother which she shares with her child during those 9 months of pregnancy.
And why would the government or any private company waste money and time on this rather than using the resources for the development of the country?
Lastly, who will control this artificial womb facility?
Who will have access to it?
What norms should be followed to gain access to it?
These questions will be answered once artificial womb technology comes into existence, but would you choose this option to become a parent?