Artificial Wombs - Ectogenesis Technology - Is On The Way
Ectogenesis is the process of raising a human fetus outside the body, inside an artificial womb. e term ectogenesis was coined in 1924 by British scientist J.B.S. Haldane.
The ectogenesis technology itself is highly complicated, though somewhat simple looking. Basically, it appears as an amniotic fluid-filled aquarium with a bunch of feeding tubes and monitoring cables attached to a live, developing organism. Those tubes bring the nutrients, oxygen, etc needed to grow an organism and help it survive; the cables monitor everything going on inside the tank.
There are two commonly cited endeavors in progress. Focusing on finding ways to save premature babies, Japanese professor Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara of Juntendo University, has successfully gestated goat embryos in a machine that holds amniotic fluid in tanks.
On the other end of the process focusing on helping women unable to conceive and gestate babies, is Dr. Helen Hung-Ching Liu, Director of the Reproductive Endocrine Laboratory at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Cornell University. Quietly, in 2003, she and her team succeeded in growing a mouse embryo, almost to full term, by adding engineered endometrium tissue to a bio-engineered, extra-uterine “scaffold.”
More recently, she grew a human embryo, for ten days in an artificial womb. Her work is limited by legislation that imposes a 14-day limit on research projects of this nature. As complicated as it is, her goal is a functioning external womb.
(Via Reproductive Health and Social Justice.)
Science fiction films in particular have repeatedly shown us artificial wombs. In Star Wars Episode II, Obi Wan examines a clone factory line.
(The clone chamber on Kamino, Obi Wan and Lama Su)
And of course in the 1999 film The Matrix.
(The Matrix farms Neo)
SF authors are not obligated to observe societal rules (or social norms) in creating their fictional works, and science fiction great Frank Herbert is no exception. In his extremely creepy 1972 book Hellstrom's Hive, Herbert introduces the idea of a "procreative stump", which is essentially the torso of a woman kept alive by artificial means:
When one of the youngsters asked if they would take the carcass to the vats or try for a procreative stump, he paused for only the briefest reflection before agreeing that they should try for a stump. Perhaps some of that female flesh could be revived and preserved. If her womb could be maintained, she might yet serve the Hive. It would be interesting to see a child of that flesh.
(Read more about Frank Herbert's procreative stump)
See also the uterine replicator from Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold (1986) and of course the artificial womb from Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel Brave New World.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/5/2014)
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