Friday, May 09, 2008

Dude, Where's my artificial womb?

A couple of our bloggers (Terry Tomsick and Jennifer Bard) have written articles on ectogenesis (aka the artificial womb or the uterine replicator), which is a fascinating area, considering all the ethical, legal, and social implications. And just in time for Mother's Day bioGeek and blogger Terry Johnson also speaks to this issue at the IO9 website:

"Whether you'd prefer a new and improved reproductive system installed as a replacement for your own or external to yourself (say, next to the washing machine), there are a few recent advancements bringing it a step closer to reality. An emulsified liquid blood substitute called perflubron has had some success used as a replacement for amniotic fluid for premature babies in respiratory distress. It's not a complete replacement for the complex stew of hormones, lipids, and proteins normally present in the amniotic fluid, it is at least a promising way to get oxygen into developing lungs."

He concludes, "we're still many decades away from a safe, human uterine replicator that can bring an embryo from conception to zeroeth birthday party. Even once we've sorted out the technical aspects of the womb itself, we'll have to deal with what the rest of the mother's body contributes to development. Hormones have already been mentioned, but baby also borrows mommy's disease-fighting machinery. Our replicator will require nearly complete endocrine and immune systems, too.

All in all, I'd take a serious look at adoption."

Full article accessible here.

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