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Lab Develops Artificial Womb 841

Meowharishi writes: "According to this article at the Observer, scientists from Cornell University have successfully developed the first artificial womb. Embroys successfully attached themselves to the walls of these wombs and began to grow but were terminated to comply with regulations. Developments like this really offer tremendous opportunities for creating a family for those who cannot have children the old fashioned way."
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Lab Develops Artificial Womb

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  • Who else... (Score:4, Funny)

    by thesolo ( 131008 ) <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Sunday February 10, 2002 @11:32PM (#2984822) Homepage
    ...is thinking of the "Baby Harvesting" scene in the The Matrix right about now??
  • hrmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2002 @11:35PM (#2984831)
    a step closer to having male pregnancy,,another Arnold movie predicts real life =p
  • by Lord Hugh Toppingham ( 319381 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @11:36PM (#2984837) Homepage
    Why so much money, time and energy is spend researching how to create more human beings, when the world is so clearly overpopulated right now.

    Why don't these researchers dedicate their energies to producing better contraceptives ?
    We seem to live in a crazy world!

    • Why don't these researchers dedicate their energies to producing better contraceptives ?

      Because every time researchers come up with a new product, several groups try to fight its introduction into the market, and lawsuits soon follow.

      Just look at the controversy over the "Morning After" pill; it was already being used in Europe, but here in the US, there were several groups lobbying the government to make it illegal, and trying to bribe the FDA.

      There is a lot more money to be had (for funding), and a lot more money to be made in reproduction than in contraception.
    • by rcs1000 ( 462363 ) <rcs1000 AT gmail DOT com> on Monday February 11, 2002 @12:16AM (#2985050)
      But in this case, I did.

      'Overpopulated' is one of these wonderful terms, that suggests a scientific problem. But really means 'there are some people I would rather weren't born.'

      More specifically, 'overpopulaton' - whatever that is supposed to mean - is used as a euphamism for 'too many of them, about the right number of us.'

      When we talk of overpopulation, what we are really saying is 'there are a class of people who should not be allowed to reproduce.' That is a dangerous and evil thought...

      Feel free to tell me I'm wrong!

      • by Straker Skunk ( 16970 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @02:00AM (#2985409)
        When we talk of overpopulation, what we are really saying is 'there are a class of people who should not be allowed to reproduce.' That is a dangerous and evil thought...

        True. Some people think that population control means killing, if not sterilizing large amounts of people accordingly deemed unfit to reproduce. Or, failing that, strict fecundity restrictions a la China.

        Most people who don't already have a genocidal streak inside them think more in terms of improved contraception and an increased standard of living [which need not be as profligate as that of your typical U.S. resident] as the ticket to a lower birth rate.

        Happy, well-fed people with lives worth living tend to find it less of a priority to create new ones. That's what has been happening in almost every industrialized Western country in the past few decades, and is not happening in areas of greater human need.

        Now, how to make this happen is another can of worms entirely---but most sane people concerned about overpopulation rightfully see authoritarian measures as a giant leap backward.
      • Overpopulation is a problem. It produces groups, even individuals, who can't feed their own offspring.

        No, there's no "class of people" who shouldn't be allowed to produce. As far as I'm concerned, the Chinese have it right (about this one thing only). One child per couple. No more.

        What do we do over the next 10-20 years as lifespans begin to move on average to 100 years or longer. It's going to happen. What if people are living longer? What do we do then?

        Familiar with natural selection? Natural selection works like this: You evolve to a point where you can survive long enough to reproduce. Once you reach that stage, natural selection stops working. We've now moved way beyond the lifespan that natural selection requires. Natural selection requires about a 30-40 year lifespan (and that happens to be roughly what the average lifespan was before vaccines, antibiotics, and other medications that prolong life began).

        Deer are a good example of what happens when you overpopulate. Deer have a tendency to overpopulate because we've killed off most of their natural predators, either intentionally or unintentionally. Now they overpopulate and then starve en-masse. And then the cycle begins again.

        Same thing will happen to us if we don't put some sort of controls in place, soon.
  • Pinky (Score:3, Funny)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @11:36PM (#2984841) Journal
    oh great.

    I can see the Sci-fi scenarios now: Saddam Hussein breeding an army of clones to conquer the world.

    Talk about Pinky and the Brain.

    • Re:Pinky (Score:2, Insightful)

      Saddam Hussein breeding an army of clones to conquer the world

      Since Saddam Hussain is a Muslim, and this is clearly an Un-Islamic idea, it is unlikely this will become reality any time soon.

      More likely is that the USA will breed an army of expendable super-patriotic clones to go out into the rest of the world and spread the word about the fantastic US way of life.

      And if anyone disagrees they get shot :-)

      • Re:Pinky (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by nhavar ( 115351 )
        Muslims will do many "Un-Islamic" things (lying, murder, torture, rape, hating, hygenic changes, etc.) in the name of serving Allah and Islam. It's simply another means to an end. Many religious groups at the end of the day (Christians, Muslims, Scientologists) excuse off their poor behavior with excuses of "I did it for...", "I was called to...", etc. The crusaders killed in the name of God, now the muslims kill in the name of Allah because of the crusades. Doing wrong is so easy to justify when you just don't care to be correct.
        • Actually, most Christian theology concludes that the means never justify the end.
          • Re:Pinky (Score:3, Interesting)

            by hawkestein ( 41151 )
            Way back when I took a course in biomedical ethics, I learned about the "double effect" principle, which (I believe) is used by the Catholic church.

            A quick search on Google led me to this site [trosch.org] which has a good summary of it.
          • Correct, but then you are talking theology and I'm talking the execution of the theology. Very little that happens within practitioners of religion actually adhere to the written theology. All systems work well on paper, throw in the chaos that is a human mind and rules get bent in ways you never thought they could.

            <Paraphrase>It depends on how you define 'is'.</Paraphrase> -- Bill

        • Re:Pinky (Score:2, Interesting)

          by modecx ( 130548 )
          IIRC, the crusaders didn't really even want to be there.

          It was yet another case of Catholic power struggles. The nobility and curch always had power battles at this time, and the Crusades were an attempt to silence the nobility.

          The pope, and his goons, basically told the nobility that if they would not go fight for the holy land, they would be ex-communicated. So, all the nobility sailed off to go fight (some took the land route too). Of course, to some of them, the crusades were a great opportunity to expand their wealth and territory.

          I'd have to say that to the great many of nobles that went to fight were not there for god. There are a few examples of those who were, however, such as Fredrich Barbarosa. But, even in his case (being the so-called Holy Roman Emperor [of the Germanic tribes]), it was more of an ego-booster than anything else. He wasn't even invited, but had to go so not to loose face.

          Face it, the only people who cared about god back then were either poor (and thus naieve, and that almost certianly meant you could not read--especially the Bible, which was next to impossible for even a noble to obtain), or were the type of extremist zealots that we see today (meaning that they were probably mentally ill or something).

          But, I wholly agree with your point. It's far too easy for most people to do something wrong, then either shrug it off, or buy forgiveness from the local spiritual dealer.

          As an aside, I think that alot of the things muslim people do, or have done, is as much a public phallic fencing match as the christians, or anyone else. They feel they have to defend the good word of Mohammed (or even worse, prove themselves superrior), just like the people who bomb abortion centers convince themselves that killing a doctor justifies saving another fetus; when in reality it dosen't. They all ultimately hurt their cause, however noble and moral it really is.

          I say let Allah, God, Jehovah, or whoever the hell runs this joint sort 'em out in the end.
          /end mindless blabbering
  • I'd really rather see artificial sperm. You could inject a woman's chromosomes into it, implant it into an egg, and end up with a nice baby girl. You wouldn't even need dudes anymore for reproduction.. oh wait, I'm a guy. Scratch that, it would never work.

  • could this lead (Score:4, Interesting)

    by asv108 ( 141455 ) <.asv. .at. .ivoss.com.> on Sunday February 10, 2002 @11:38PM (#2984851) Homepage Journal
    To rich women not having to carry their children the old fashion way? I could see this being beneficial for women who cannot carry a child but I could see this being more of a luxury for career minded or rich women who don't want to endure the inconvenience of childbearing. Women's right advocates could see this as the next breakthrough for women but I think the majority of people will scared. I'm sure the Roman Catholic Church doesn't approve.
    • Re:could this lead (Score:2, Insightful)

      by base3 ( 539820 )
      To rich women not having to carry their children the old fashion way?

      That's just so wrong, it'll probably happen.

    • Rich infertile women can already do this: surrogate mothers have been around for some time. After in-vitro fertilization, the uterus that gets the embryo doesn't need to be that of the woman who supplied the eggs. So poorer women get paid to bear children for couples who can afford it. It's been done for at least a decade.

      That said, it's going to be a long while before a healthy child is born from an artificial uterus. Achieving implantation is just the first step. There is a lot that isn't known yet about placental development and other aspects of the uterine environment. Of course, that's not going to keep this from becoming a political issue long before then...

    • Re:could this lead (Score:3, Informative)

      by bourne ( 539955 )

      To rich women not having to carry their children the old fashion way?

      There is no need to worry - men aren't affected, so this development will languish opposed and unused.

      Consider that Viagra is covered (and was included in record time) under many health plans, while the majority of women using oral contraceptives still have to pay for them themselves. (Viagra: A Tale of Two Pills [fwhc.org])

      Also consider the fact that while 1 in 6 American couples have trouble conceiving [umkc.edu] , only 12 states [asrm.org] have any requirement that insurance companies cover "some form" of infertility treatment. In fact, only 3 of those states require insurance plans to cover it as part of regular coverage.

      As fertility rates continue to drop in the industrialized countries, this will become more and more of a problem. 20-odd years ago, the first successful IVF was discarded because the researcher's superior considered it immoral. 20 years from now, we may view an artificial womb as we do IVF today - not needed by most, unavailable to many who need it, but a godsend to those who need it and can get it. Speaking as the father of an IVF baby, I know how much that can mean to someone.

  • by Emugamer ( 143719 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @11:39PM (#2984852) Homepage Journal
    Heretics! next thing you will know MIT will be violateing the statues of the Butlerian Jihad those with computers in the likeness of the mind.. oh wait..

  • Daddy is also mummy? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ozric99 ( 162412 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @11:40PM (#2984865) Journal
    So, presumably, one day soon, transexual pregnancy [tripod.com] could be a reality. While extremely interesting, this throws up all manner of moral and ethical questions. Most of which, one presumes are beyond the scope of a slashdot discussion.
    • >this throws up all manner of moral and ethical
      >questions. Most of which, one presumes are
      >beyond the scope of a slashdot discussion.

      I'm not sure I agree that the QUESTIONS are beyond the scope of a slashdot discussion.

      The answers, however, probably are.


    • Or Daddy could be Arnold, as seen in the god-aweful "Junior"...

      But that wouldn't be science. That'd be something out of his bad acting career (note: see his new movie before you flamebait that. =P)
    • Well, in a genetic sense, these new technologies are not a requirement for trans-sexual pregnancies. If you could make an ovum with DNA from two men, it would (appear to) be (far) easier to implant it into a woman (possible with current technologies) than it would be to create an artifical womb (presumably tailored for this particular ovum.)

      Recall, there are three (biological) things which are passed on to the offspring:

      1) Genomic DNA. The chromosomes that everyone knows about, one of each from each parent.

      2) Mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondria are degenerate bacteria that live symbiotically within the cells of all higher organisms (plants also have chloroplasts, another degenerate bacteria.) These Mitochondria still have a tiny bit of DNA of their own - a child inherits his or her Mother's Mitochondrial DNA, exclusively. It might be possible to move Mitochondria from a male into an egg, but this technology would have no impact on that.

      3) Immune Factors. There is considerable reason to believe that certain acquired characteristics of the immune system are (I don't think it is yet known exactly how) passed from the mother to the fetus. This process seems to somehow continue during early breastfeeding. With an artificial womb, you might be able to somehow duplicate this process using acquired characteristics from another person; however, since it is not actually known how this process occurs naturally, any discussion of how to duplicate it is pure speculation.

      I really don't see what moral or ethical questions an artificial womb raises, unless by "raises moral or ethical questions" you mean "makes rightist religious nuts uncomfortable."
  • by passion ( 84900 )

    This is actively working against evolution. I demand this stop immediately. Not only do we allow blind, deaf, ugly, and stupid people to pro-create, but now we're going to start allowing sterile people to procreate? Someday, we'll all end up stuck in the matrix feeding tubes, and it won't be imposed on us by some AI run amuck.... it will be done by our own choice.

    For the record, I don't have anything against the aforementioned groups of people, I'm just saying that the proliferation of those traits in our gene pool is not necessarily desired. Not to be misconstrued - I firmly believe that we're all created equal, and should be given ample opportunities to pursue happiness in our own ways. I'll not persecute people based on how they were born, but do we necessarily want to become a people who can't function without the full dependence on technology?

    Stephen Hawking claimed that ALS was the best thing that ever happened to his career, note that he didn't say that it was the best thing to ever happen to his life.

    • by rtaylor ( 70602 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @11:51PM (#2984927) Homepage
      How do you know that the deaf, dumb or blind aren't better physically suited to the environment of the future, but have simply evolved early?

      I can think of advantages to all 3. Having a hard time coming up for a reason for ugly though.
      • by gvonk ( 107719 )
        The ugly is very appealing to man.... It's instinct. One shrinks from the ugly, yet wants to look at it. There's a devilish fascination in it. We extract pleasure from horror.
        ATTRIBUTION: Sonya Levien (1895-1960), Russian screenwriter. William Dieterle. King Louis XI (Harry Davenport), The Hunchback of Notre Dame, commenting on the crowd's decision to crown the ugliest person as King of the Fair (1939).
    • You know, if we didn't allow stupid and ugly people to procreate, I'm sure you wouldn't be here either...

      That adhom attack aside, evolution only favors those who survive and reproduce. If the people *you* judge as unfit to reproduce *do* reproduce, it's obvious that nature thought they *were* fit to reproduce, and thus evolution's constraints were satisfied.

      If you want to control evolution (by denying artificial wombs and such), you should go out and kill everyone who doesn't meet your critiera for evolutionary fitness. Otherwise just leave everyone well enough alone, lest you be targetted by some prettier, stronger, smarter ape who thinks you don't satisfy the notions of the race superior.
    • by neuroticia ( 557805 ) <neuroticia@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Monday February 11, 2002 @12:43AM (#2985160) Journal
      Ok. I tried not to get pissed off... Didn't work. Not even thinking happy thoughts about the new computer I get to build soon worked.

      Number one: I am deaf, it has NOTHING to do with my genes and I fully intend on procreating once I find a suitable life-partner to do so with.

      Number two: If a couple, or woman, or man can take care of a child they should be permitted to procreate if they like. It's those who cannot take care of their offspring that should not be permitted to.

      Number three: You assume that genes have everything to do with everything. My deafness is a far cry from being related to genetics, and so might peoples sterility, blindness, stupidity, and ugliness.

      Number four: This is slashdot, I think we are all far beyond merely "depending" on technology. I can probably safely bet that 9/10ths of us would commit suicide if technology were eliminated from the planet tomorrow. (This is a safe bet because I'd probably be the first to go.)

      There are enough LOGICAL reasons to argue against this without pushing buttons. ie:

      1- Impact on the offspring-- The subtle shifting of hormonal balances, nutrients, etc. in the natural womb cannot be duplicated exactly. What will the impact on the offspring be mentally, physically, and emotionally?

      2- Human bonding- The bonding process begins in the womb. We might end up with a whole generation of children who are emotionally and mentally like the monkey in the experiment with the wire and "fur" surrogate mothers.

      3- Potential of mass-producing human life for slavery, medical experiments, or the like. Do we really want to open the doors to this possibility?

      Screw evolution. Do you really think that anything going on today allows evolution? Miracle drugs and antibiotics to curb infection, breast implants to attract males, CPR to save lives, the internet to allow the meeting of geeks who would never otherwise venture outside even if it meant never reproducing... We're far beyond evolution at this point. Now all we can *really* do is sit back and watch the world fall apart or come together whatever the case might be.

      • The emotional bond that seems to exist between the mother and child within the womb seems irreplacable. It's proven fact that stimulation is what help babies develop, and it seems like a test-tube baby would lack many of the sensations available to a naturally born baby (the sounds of the mother's voice, jostling, temperature and hormonal variations).

        As I posted earlier, I think this sort of thing could make us "God children" (see G.A.T.T.A.C.A.) become inferior as superior, disease and disability-free children are born from laboratories.

        *sigh* Perhaps I'm just overreacting.
    • This is actively working against evolution. I demand this stop immediately. Not only do we allow blind, deaf, ugly, and stupid people to pro-create, but now we're going to start allowing sterile people to procreate? Someday, we'll all end up stuck in the matrix feeding tubes, and it won't be imposed on us by some AI run amuck.... it will be done by our own choice.

      Selective evolution works on a time period of millenia. Genetic engineering will bec commonplace in decades. Selective evolution is not relevant anymore.

    • what's an "amuck"? I demand that people who cannot spell stop procreating!
    • I used to think like that, but ten I realised that darwinian evolution doesn't work like that. The important thing is SURVIVAL, never-ending reproduction of our genes, perpetuation of our cells. Its not HOW we do it that counts, its doing it.

      Sure it means that a whole bunch of blind retards reproduce, but maybe one of those blind retards has a mutant gene that by pure coincidence will make them immune to some futur plague. Then that precious gene will be in the pool, and by ten we'll hopefully have gene-therapy, another unnatural way to play the natural selection game, and we'll all get to be saved from the plague by the reject's mutant gene.

      If our big brains give us more ways to reproduce, it makes the species stronger, not weaker. And if artificial reproduction methods lead to a weakened human race that can't survive, the Amish will still be there to perpetuate the species.
      Its not as if the whole world will abandon natural childbirthing to go to the axolt tubes.
  • Is there something they're not telling us here? Is this making anyone else paranoid? If the human race is having serious problems with self-government and religion, what makes anyone believe we are going to get "better" playing God?
  • This is exciting. Alduous is doing pretty good on his predictions. I'd be scared about the future, but I've just taken a gram of soma.
  • What is facinating about this is that it could either revolutionize the human birth process or be perverted into something horrid.

    If Women were no longer subjected to being the bearer of children, and allowed to have the option of using an alternative method of gestating a child. Health costs could be lowered, OBs would be rare, etc. The Truth Machine [thetruthmachine.com] and The First Immortal [firstimmortal.com] wree two books by James Halperin about ideas of how the future could turn out. He had artificial wombs as one of the techs (mentioned briefly).

    At the same time, an artificial womb could be quite horrific. How would a person be after developing in an artificial womb. Charles Wilson explored this with Embryo [amazon.com] and had a bunch of psychotic murderers running around.

    I often felt that humans just shouldn't be allowed to do what they do with some forms of medical science because of how it is perverted in the name of their deity either. I'm sure the right-to-life people are going to have a field day with it, as well as the right-to-abortion folks. Both will show it as 'proof' that their side is right. Televangilists on TV will be telling folks to send em their money so they can stop it, etc.

    Me, I find this facinating medically, but frightening socially.
  • by oregon ( 554165 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @11:47PM (#2984900) Homepage

    How is this different from a couple's child being gestated in a surrogate mother's womb?

    How is this different from a different organ - the kidney - being replaced with external machinery (dialysis)?

    How is this different from the prosthetic limbs or the artifical hearts in development?

    Our bodies are imperfect and sometimes bits don't work properly or break. We have the means to workaround these shortcomings with technology; in this case, we still need parents to provide the genetic material and, obviously, raise the child once it is born.
    • Medical equipment has no standing in Family Court, no judge is going to give custody of a child to a glorified toaster. --Dave
    • by Kenneth ( 43287 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:25AM (#2985847) Homepage
      How is this different from a couple's child being gestated in a surrogate mother's womb?

      It isn't, much, but there are a lot of people who have ethical concerns about that too. I won't argue those here (I actually am rather apathetic about the surrogate mother issue) but your first comment actually illustrates the point of those who hold the opposing view.

      There is also the somewhat frightening idea of someone running amok with these things, and creating some sort of slave class of person to run things. read Brave New World. People were engineered to belong to different classes. More likely I see someplace using mass produced people as a menial labor force. It sounds like some sort of bad SciFi, but I can still see it happening.
      At least using surrogate mothers requires someone else to go through 9 months of serious discomfort and moderate threat to life (as all childbirth does), making it far more difficult to do something like this.

      How is this different from a different organ - the kidney - being replaced with external machinery (dialysis)?

      Once again, it isn't, much. The problem is that dialysis is usually used in one of two situations.
      • The kidneys have had a problem, the dialysis is used until the kidneys can resume normal function.
      • The kidneys no longer work, and dialysis is being used as a stopgap measure until a transplant organ can be obtained.

      Few people spend large amounts of their lives on dialysis. It can keep you alive, but is painful, unplesant, work intensive, and doesn't work as well as the real thing. If a kidney doesn't work as well, your health is poor. If a womb doesn't work as well, you could end up with all sorts of interesting physical and mental problems. In this instance we are not talking about preserving life, we are talking about creating it. There are ethical concers about dabbling with such things when we don't understand them.

      How is this different from the prosthetic limbs or the artifical hearts in development?

      It is many orders of magnitude more complex than prosthetic limbs or artificial hearts. The ethical concern comes from creating human life in this manner. Would it really be fair to create a life that society will have no choice but to institutionalize in some manner?

      Our bodies are imperfect and sometimes bits don't work properly or break. We have the means to workaround these shortcomings with technology; in this case, we still need parents to provide the genetic material and, obviously, raise the child once it is born.

      Yes we can work around some things, but an artifical heart, kidney or limb doesn't work quite as well as the original. There are inevitably problems. If someone needs a leg, they effect themselves. Creating a womb however also affects the life of the person being 'born?'.

      The other problem (as I cited above) is that genetic material is extremely easy to obtain. It isn't particularly difficult to harvest eggs from women. This is done for invitrio(sp?) fertilization. For men, it is even easier, and we all know how it's done.

      With just a little work it would be possible to create vast numbers of offspring. How these offspring would be used is one of the major ethical questions. Even in this century, there are countries that have no problem whatsoever with slavery. Would those same countries have a problem with creating some sort of easy labor force? OK, I honestly can't say I see China doing this. One of the reasons they have slavery relates to their overpopulation problem. This would compound it. Still it could be a fairly cheap and constant labor source.

      All this aside, I really don't see it as too bad. The potential for abuse is great, but all technology can be abused in some manner. This could allow women who can not carry a child to term to have a child without the problems involved in using a surrogate (some of the legal complications alone are epic).

      I would suggest strongly trying this with various animals and getting several completely normal animals (including primates) before ever attempting this on a human.

      Even then, there will be legitimate ethical questions, but I leave most of those for someone else.
  • At first a clone needed a human surrogate mother to carry the fetus to term. Now, we can clone the human and not even have a human carry it. This could be done behind closed doors. Nobody would even be aware that the child exists.

    Combine that with genetic experiements, there are plenty of opportunities to play god and not get too concerned about the mistakes. Biology and medicine is more or less a game of trial and error, and genetics is unlikely to be much different. But if nobody knows about the 10,000 mutants that resulted from every success...

    Something to think about anyways.

  • Abortion ethics? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Erich ( 151 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @11:50PM (#2984919) Homepage Journal
    Abortions in the third trimester are generally considered unethical (if it could have been avoided) because the (baby|fetus) is to the "viability" point... it is possible that it could survive on its own outside of the mother.

    This device makes it possible for (baby|fetus)s to reach this "viability" mark much earlier...

    I don't want to start a flame war, but what effect do you think technological advances such as these will have on ethics relating to unborn children/fetuses?

    • Re:Abortion ethics? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Wire Tap ( 61370 )
      The thing I'd be most afraid of is a parent (using the term very, very lightly) who has the child "grown" in the artificial womb for any length of time, and then decides she wants it to be aborted, all because it's "too hard for her." I really can see it happening, too. It's a sad thing to considering, but, knowing many of the women's groups out there, it's entirely possible. I think people need to start looking at themselves and start acting responsibly. Be accountable, people.
    • by robwicks ( 18453 )
      Abortions in the third trimester are generally considered unethical (if it could have been avoided) because the (baby|fetus) is to the "viability" point... it is possible that it could survive
      on its own outside of the mother.
      Truth be told, most of us can't really do that until we are several years old, and some never develop to that level. You really mean "survive with the aid of someone other than the mother." This is an important distinction, because this technology will likely get more and more advanced, along with non-invasive surgical techniques, and abortions will either be considered unethical at earlier and earlier points, or, I think more likely in the West, people will point out that the point really is reproductive control, and life really begins at birth, and the taboo will be eroded to the point that it won't be considered unethical to abort at any time short of actual labor.

      Truly, if we could insure that most children could survive with the aid of someone other than the mother from a few weeks after conception, that would have tremendous moral implications. Mothers might actually have the unexpected equality of not being able to be the final decision maker on having a child. This, along with cloning, really could be a big deal socially.

    • I can't remember who said it now, but I remember someone said that the Roe v Wade decision was on a collision course with science. The rather arbitrary trimester standard that the courts set up in this decision was based on viability outside of the womb with the technology and science available back then. Things have steadily improved, and even without this aritficial womb, a fetus can be viable much earlier on than it was 29 years ago. This artificial womb just further muddies the water.

      Note: This is not an anti-abortion post. I am simply speaking here to the judicial policymaking that was done by the Supreme Court in Roe v Wade.
  • So this is how Lucas is going to promote Episode II.
  • by abe ferlman ( 205607 ) <bgtrioNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Sunday February 10, 2002 @11:52PM (#2984931) Homepage Journal
    As if it weren't obvious, this has tremendous implications. But perhaps it's worth pointing one of them out.

    Currently, abortion is legal until the fetus has reached a point of viability- that is, until it could conceivably live outside of its mother's womb on its own. Advances in medical science have been pushing that date back slowly since Roe v. Wade, but this is very big.

    It's a pretty arbitrary line to begin with, and this makes it even farther from being grounded in modern science.

    I'm not interested in having the yet another abortion debate, but I am curious how folks think this will change the rhetorical landscape for politicians, religous figures and ethicists. And, of course, for women.

    • How would this push the viability date back?

      I'd think they'd still go by the 'outside the womb' criterium. It's a twisty semantic argument that says "this embryo is living outside its GENETIC mother's womb..."

      I wonder what the right-to-lifers thought about the termination of this test embryo. Some seem to regard *any* abortion as wrong. Would they have lobbied for this embryo, fighting to see it grow up?
      • It's a twisty semantic argument that says "this embryo is living outside its GENETIC mother's womb..."

        The phrase "live outside of it's mother's womb" is not twisty at all. Why is an artificial womb less valid than an incubator for accomplishing the goal of keeping the embryo alive, for these purposes?

        If legality is decided with that criteria, then when we can move the foetus at will from the natural to an artificial environment at any point after conception, abortion will be effectively banned.

        • This says nothing of being able to move a fetus between real and artifical wombs. Read the article please!
          This is about starting the embryo out in the artifical womb, and having it stay there.
          Re-attaching a plecenta isn't what I'd call trivial, and that is what is necessary to move a fetus between two wombs.
          Don't you think they'd do this for unborn children whose mother has died if they could?
    • Earlier, I said this doesn't raise any moral dilemmas - scratch that.

      The abortion issue is a red herring - John & Jane (and Jill and Jacqueline) Mormon may get government sanction to adopt any aborted fetus they want in the state of Utah, by chucking them in one of these, but I doubt it.

      However, I worry about extensive birth defects among babies birthed using this technique.

      The evidence [goshen.edu] (search for string 'birth defects') is not as strong as I recall, but there is reason to believe that babies concieved by in vitro fertilisation - who are then transplanted into the womb of another woman - have higher birth-defect rates than other babies (this study was done in Australia, so maybe IFV agravates fetal alchohol syndrome.)

      An artifical womb, which would, almost by definition, be a pretty imperfect copy the first time round, might have a hugely higher birth defect rate.

      Be like me, enliven your sex life by discussing "flipper babies" instead of letting her go to sleep.
    • In time the ability to transfer the living embryo from the mother's womb to the artificial womb will occur. Currently, around 25% of men would choose to have the child live instead of being aborted in an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. If they can make the procedure so that the father has a "choice" to raise the child in an artificial womb we will see likely more poor single fathers like the poor single mothers of today. How will pundits especially feminists and the upcoming masculine oriented groups approach this? Some may shout equality, but what will it really be.

      As one of few pro-life anarchists out there I would like people's opinion on this.

      forgive my website trilucid.com flaked out and I lost most of my pages

  • by gvonk ( 107719 )
    but were terminated to comply with regulations

    ...Kind of like Emeril's sitcom?

    ok. that was really bad.
  • I mean honestly, I fall in this category, but this is too much, even for me:

    'There are going to be real problems,' said organiser Dr Scott Gelfand, of Oklahoma State University. 'Some feminists even say artificial wombs mean men could eliminate women from the planet and still perpetuate our species. That's a bit alarmist. Nevertheless, this subject clearly raises strong feelings.'

    For the record, how many guys do you know who come out saying 'Man, I'd love to have kids.. but its those damn _women_ I can't stand. Pussy? Who needs pussy! I just want a baby to cuddle!'

    Sure, they don't like our PMS trips, but do they really want to eradicate sex (real sex) from their diets? I mean Rosy and her sisters, and the Realdoll [realdoll.com] only go so far...

    These chicks make us normal feminists look bad.

  • "Men redundant? Now we don't need women either"

    I'm sorry, but while I can stand being considered 'redundant', I consider women to be absolutely necessary.
  • by PDHoss ( 141657 )

    Can you imagine one of these things making an appearance in one of those ABC AfterSchool Special shows about teen pregnancy?

    Holy shit, that would be so trippy.


  • I'm so far from a luddite it's not funny, but are we sure we should be doing this? I mean most of us here are pretty firm believers in Darwinism, whether god started it or just luck (I believe luck, but I digress) - I mean if you medically can't have children, perhaps there's a reason? I know there's disease, accidents, and botched surgery that can cause these things, but I'm just uncomfortable with the idea.

    I think we need to get away from the notion that every person out there has an automatic right to have children. Some people just shouldn't. Or how about adoption? There are a lot of kids out there in foster homes.

    Top marks for the pure science involved tho!
    • Do you wear glasses? Do you know somebody who does?

      Perhaps they should do without, because evolution didn't intend them to be able to see. For the record, I'm almost legally blind without glasses. I'm utterly helpless, barely able to walk on my own. With glasses, my vision is 20/20. Should I stop wearing them because they're not natural?

      How about diabetics? Maybe we should just let them die without insulin.

      Kids with asthma? Screw 'em. Let's see how they do without their inhalers.

      The point is, we are so far away from natural selection that it isn't even funny. Everything a doctor does is in complete violation of the natural order. If you want to say that this should be different -- that the right to have children is somehow different than the right to see well, or the right to have braces correct your bad teeth -- you'll need to explain why you're singling out this particular facet of health from any other.
  • by hawkestein ( 41151 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @12:39AM (#2985153)
    A lot of people have brought up the issue of abortion and viability, suggesting that this sort of technology may have an effect on the ethics of aborting a fetus that may be considered viable at any stage.

    However, there's another interesting consequence... What if a fetus could be transplated from a natural womb to an artificial one? Let's say a woman wants to have an abortion, and the doctor says, "We can either terminate the fetus, or we can transplant it to an artificial womb and put it up for adoption".

    Would it ever be ethical to destroy the fetus in this case? This eliminates the argument of autonomy . Should a woman have the right to decide whether or not to destroy her fetus or simply put it up for adoption?
  • I work in a virtual world that exists only in a computer, where I have the powers of a god. My government is trying to use computer technology to track my every move. Mega-corporations have the power to bend that government or any other to their will. People buy robotic pets, and other robots fight each other to destruction for our entertainment. In the same year they find a way to concieve children without fathers, *and* gestate children without mothers, and before the year is out we'll probably see the birth of the first human clone.

    Christ on a crutch, this author *sucks*. Pick a plot and *go* with already, I can't keep track of this one.

    --Dave Rickey

  • Better Idea (Score:3, Funny)

    by cybercuzco ( 100904 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @12:49AM (#2985182) Homepage Journal
    Developments like this really offer tremendous opportunities for creating a family for those who cannot have children the old fashioned way."
    Or for creating an army of genetically enhanced flying monkeys. Fly my pretties, fly! Hahahahahaha!
  • Its about time my kids can get a womb with a view!

  • sounds like the clones in huxley's 'brave new world'.

  • I Didn't Think It Was Possible. The "grim sci-fi future" is more gentle and humane than the present. Case in point: 7 of 9 is on a Borg cube and there is a drone in a maturation chamber. Despite heroic effort, she is unable to save it. The present: Regulations stipulate that human life be terminated, and scientists comply.

    Yeah, I know there is no way we can stop this from happening... or do you mean to say "resistance is futile"?

    • I think it would be better to do the deed when the termination is "complying with regulations" instead of "murder". Or would you prefer that the embryos be brought to term in an experimental, unproven process that may well leave them with all sorts of fun psychological/development and physiological problems?
  • > Embroys successfully attached themselves
    > to the walls of these wombs and began to
    > grow but were terminated to comply with regulations.

    That's nice, but any chance of doing the same with embryos?

  • by johnrpenner ( 40054 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:07AM (#2985232) Homepage

    "I shall begin at the beginning," said the D.H.C. and the more zealous
    students recorded his intention in their notebooks: Begin at the
    beginning. "These," he waved his hand, "are the incubators." And opening
    an insulated door he showed them racks upon racks of numbered test-tubes.
    "The week's supply of ova. Kept," he explained, "at blood heat; whereas
    the male gametes," and here he opened another door, "they have to be kept
    at thirty-five instead of thirty-seven. Full blood heat sterilizes." Rams
    wrapped in theremogene beget no lambs.

    Still leaning against the incubators he gave them, while the pencils
    scurried illegibly across the pages, a brief description of the modern
    fertilizing process; spoke first, of course, of its surgical
    introduction-"the operation undergone voluntarily for the good of Society,
    not to mention the fact that it carries a bonus amounting to six months'
    salary"; continued with some account of the technique for preserving the
    excised ovary alive and actively developing; passed on to a consideration
    of optimum temperature, salinity, viscosity; referred to the liquor in
    which the detached and ripened eggs were kept; and, leading his charges to
    the work tables, actually showed them how this liquor was drawn off from
    the test-tubes; how it was let out drop by drop onto the specially warmed
    slides of the microscopes; how the eggs which it contained were inspected
    for abnormalities, counted and transferred to a porous receptacle; how
    (and he now took them to watch the operation) this receptacle was immersed
    in a warm bouillon containing free-swimming spermatozoa-at a minimum
    concentration of one hundred thousand per cubic centimetre, he insisted;
    and how, after ten minutes, the container was lifted out of the liquor and
    its contents re-examined; how, if any of the eggs remained unfertilized,
    it was again immersed, and, if necessary, yet again; how the fertilized
    ova went back to the incubators; where the Alphas and Betas remained until
    definitely bottled; while the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons were brought out
    again, after only thirty-six hours, to undergo Bokanovsky's Process.

    "Bokanovsky's Process," repeated the Director, and the students underlined
    the words in their little notebooks.

    One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality. But a bokanovskified egg will
    bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and
    every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into
    a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one
    grew before. Progress.

    "Essentially," the D.H.C. concluded, "bokanovskification consists of a
    series of arrests of development. We check the normal growth and,
    paradoxically enough, the egg responds by budding."

    Responds by budding. The pencils were busy.

    He pointed. On a very slowly moving band a rack-full of test-tubes was
    entering a large metal box, another, rack-full was emerging. Machinery
    faintly purred. It took eight minutes for the tubes to go through, he told
    them. Eight minutes of hard X-rays being about as much as an egg can
    stand. A few died; of the rest, the least susceptible divided into two;
    most put out four buds; some eight; all were returned to the incubators,
    where the buds began to develop; then, after two days, were suddenly
    chilled, chilled and checked. Two, four, eight, the buds in their turn
    budded; and having budded were dosed almost to death with alcohol;
    consequently burgeoned again and having budded-bud out of bud out of
    bud-were thereafter-further arrest being generally fatal-left to develop
    in peace. By which time the original egg was in a fair way to becoming
    anything from eight to ninety-six embryos- a prodigious improvement, you
    will agree, on nature. Identical twins-but not in piddling twos and threes
    as in the old viviparous days, when an egg would sometimes accidentally
    divide; actually by dozens, by scores at a time.

    "Scores," the Director repeated and flung out his arms, as though he were
    distributing largesse. "Scores."

    But one of the students was fool enough to ask where the advantage lay.

    "My good boy!" The Director wheeled sharply round on him. "Can't you see?
    Can't you see?" He raised a hand; his expression was solemn. "Bokanovsky's
    Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!"

    Major instruments of social stability.

    Standard men and women; in uniform batches. The whole of a small factory
    staffed with the products of a single bokanovskified egg.

    "Ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines!" The
    voice was almost tremulous with enthusiasm. "You really know where you
    are. For the first time in history." He quoted the planetary motto.
    "Community, Identity, Stability." Grand words. "If we could bokanovskify
    indefinitely the whole problem would be solved."

    Solved by standard Gammas, unvarying Deltas, uniform Epsilons. Millions of
    identical twins. The principle of mass production at last applied to

  • Hatched? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DocStoner ( 236199 )
    Tonight I shall sleep beneath a blanket of paranoia.

    I wasn't worried about being cloned without my permission. I knew that no woman (other than dear ol' Mom) would want to carry a copy of me arond for 9 months. However, this changes everything.

    A couple of things..

    1)I wonder if a live fetus was miscarried, could it be placed into the artificial womb till birth.
    2)This will be the end of that "re-birthing" craze. What re-birthing will renew my life? Well, sorry but I wasn't born that way. I was born by cracking my "shell". Which brings up...
    3)You can't call this being born. You have to call it being hatched.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:13AM (#2985252) Journal

    What kind of psychological impact will it have if a baby is brought to term without any of the rocking, singing, ooh-ah, coo-coo, dinner, conversation, love and life of the mother in close contact? An "artificial womb" will presumably be a dark, enclosed tank with little or no human contact. There is substantial evidence to indicate that prenatal stimulation is important. I wonder what kind of messed up people will come out of these chambers.

    • That's the least of the problems. Embryology is fantastically complicated. There are numerous things that we just don't understand. For example, in many species, hormones dictate which end of the embryo is which. So that the stem cells destined for the head migrate to the correct place, and the stem cells destined for the tail migrate elsewhere. If we have similar (or much much more complex) systems, then we might be able to approximate them, but we'll never know how well we've done. We could discover that we had improperly measured out the amount of hormones necesary to give the XY fetus male genitals. And we might only discover our mistake when none of these males could produce sperm.

      Embryology is 100% as complicated as all of human evolution. Every peice of genetic code is only functional in the context of the mother's womb.
    • Ah.. that can be fixed with great ease, you know ? It wouldn't be hard to produce stimulation tapes. Play them 16 hours a day. Have them developed by "experts"

      With some luck, the produced babies will be even more intelligent than "normal" babies.

      And then, you could have "special" tapes which would help the baby develop certain reactions. Such as agression. That would be useful if you were trying to develop killer ninja babies.

      Grow them in vats, and create a lot of automatons that will teach them to fight, as well as other required lifeskills. Such as learning a 'newspeak' type language which will form their view of the world.. And enable you to cheaply produce an army of drone-babies ! In only about 18 years after they're born !
  • This is no big deal. Take a soma and relax!
  • Of course if we had a Beowulf cluster of these, hmm...
  • I always thought of Frank Herbert as a visionaire, but it never occured to me that the axlotl tank will be one of the things to materialize during my own lifetime

    The Raven.

  • by Kymermosst ( 33885 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @03:04AM (#2985566) Journal
    If they were to combine such technology with a Realdoll! [realdoll.com]

    She doesn't cook, she doesn't clean, but she will bear your children!
  • Successful my ass. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by solios ( 53048 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:16AM (#2985723) Homepage
    [giving up mod access for what some right-to-lifer with mod points is going to see as flamebate... but hey, opinion is opinion, and too many people seem to think that their opinions are FACT, so what the hell....]

    It's not successful until the device can be proven to gestate a fetus to term, and that said fetus be functional and free of defencts (depending on the old truism of garbage in, garbage out with regards to the genetic materials). "Regulations" have allowed for nothing more than a proof of concept. Yee ha. Test it on a pig or something and see if it really works all the way.

    Too many people are shooting straight from the hip with moral panic attacks about this- the results of which are essentially as close minded as "640k ought to be enough for anybody." The morally minded need to shut the fsck up and realize that they have no right to have ANY say in the procreation alternatives of other sentient individuals. I cannot assess wether or not this device is practical for reasons stated above- it's not a functional proof of concept until "regulations" (created or pushed through by the morally minded who seem to exist only to restrict the will of others) allow for a thorough test.

    Is it a good idea? Of course; it's advancing science. Medical science and NASA would be about thirty years behind where we are now were it not for German scientific data garnered from the second world war.

    The only life you have ANY say in is YOUR OWN. Now keep your mouth shut about why cloning and Gattica-style selective breeding is a bad idea.... because simply put, it doesn't presently exist, so we just don't KNOW, do we? It's not your life, it's not your choice, so fundamentally, it's *not your business* unless you're looking to reproduce and have run out of options.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:18AM (#2985729) Journal
    There's a LOT more to an artificial womb than getting the embryo to attach. The baby/mother system has lots of biochemical communication, turning mommy into a nutrient factory for the little tyke under construction.

    Her body sacrifices the calcium in her bones, the energetic compounds and trace elements in her fat, and the vitamins in her bloodstream, handing it off to the foetus as directed by a plethora of signals. She gets morning sickness from folic acid deficiency and strange appetites at odd hours ("Honey, run out and get me some Ice Cream and Pickles!") whenever baby needs some oddball compound. And then there's the support, massage, and shaping performed by the bag of muscles the kid lives in for 9 months.

    The signals are FAR from all known, and you can bet that kidlet will not form up healthy and happy if you just give him/her a stock nutrient solution rather than adjusting it according to his/her signals.
    • MOD PARENT UP! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Artifice_Eternity ( 306661 ) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:43AM (#2985868) Homepage
      You are so right.

      We have no idea what we're getting into. And we have no idea what we don't know yet about the natural gestation process.

      It is a silly and frankly stupid notion that everyone has a right to reproduce biologically, and that that right must be enabled by expensive new technology. If you can't make a child naturally, you can adopt one. God knows there are enough already who need to be adopted.

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry