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Biotech Science Technology

Artificial Wombs In the Near Future? 367

New submitter DaemonDan writes "The first successful pregnancy by IVF was accomplished over 50 years ago, essentially creating a multi-billion dollar industry. Many scientists are trying to take it one step farther with a 100% test tube baby brought to term in an artificial womb. 'Cornell University's Dr. Hung-Ching Liu has engineered endometrial tissues by prompting cells to grow in an artificial uterus. When Liu introduced a mouse embryo into the lab-created uterine lining, "It successfully implanted and grew healthy," she said in this New Atlantis Magazine article. Scientists predict the research could produce an animal womb by 2020, and a human model by early 2030s.' The author of the article seems to believe that birth via artificial wombs could become the new norm, but is it really feasible, desirable or even affordable for the majority of Earth's population?"
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Artificial Wombs In the Near Future?

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  • Wow... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:21PM (#41983917) Homepage Journal

    I keep thinking of how sci-fi writers sometimes get behind the "now". In Dune they had "Axlotyl tanks" to grow clones in, and it turned out that these "tanks" were human women. And Dune was set 1000 years in the future. Are they going to call these artificial wombs Axlotyl Tanks?

    Star Trek did the same thing when McCoy gave Kirk reading glasses, and the CrystaLens came out about fifteen years later.

  • by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:26PM (#41983983)
    My first born son has been in the hospital for the last three months. He was born a little early. Let's just say that I'm open to the idea of not going through that again.
  • Sax Hulled You (Score:3, Interesting)

    by salparadyse ( 723684 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:26PM (#41983985)
    Oh brave new world, that has such people in it.
  • Brave New World (Score:5, Interesting)

    by paleo2002 ( 1079697 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:27PM (#41983993)
    Should we use these to decant Alphas or Epsilon semi-morons?
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:27PM (#41984007) Homepage Journal

    If a government wants to prohibit abortion, they can just require that she give up her embryo or fetus for adoption when she terminates the pregnancy, with the state picking up the tab over and above the cost of an abortion.

    This assumes, of course, that removing the embryo or fetus in a way that allows transplant to an artificial womb doesn't put the mother at a greater health risk than an abortion.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:28PM (#41984023)

    Consider, female is pregnant & wants to abort her fetus, but the male sues to have custody of the fetus turned over to him since he can implant it into an artificial womb..

    In a society where pregnancy can occur entirely outside of the human body, what will happen for abortion rights, custody disputes, etc.

    All kinds of social, ethical and legal landmines waiting in that Pandora's box.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Defenestrar ( 1773808 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:47PM (#41984289)

    Uterine replicators were pretty central to the start of Bujold's series in '86 with one of her first Hugo's coming out of that initial plot. She's examined their impact from a few different angles over the years - although it's just background or a side line in many of the Vorkosigan novels. I'd say she gave it a far better treatment than Herbert (though he certainly got there first) who only ever managed to share a Hugo let alone win the four Bujold's got. Actually, I think I liked the collaborative work of his son with Anderson a bit more than most of the original Dune books (barring Dune itself), although their work is probably best accompanied by a SSRI.

    One of the things I appreciate about SF is not just the imagination of the future as much as exploring the ethics and social implications of where we might end up.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Znork ( 31774 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:24PM (#41984825)

    Still, even Bujold is fairly recent. Personally I suspect that if men were the ones getting pregnant we'd have had da Vinci making designs for uterine replicators and the Germans would have perfected them in the 30's.

    It will be interesting to see how the debate goes when they start being used, particularly as cosmetic and convenience reasons are likely to be significant drivers. I'm certain some groups will find (or make up) a lot of reasons to oppose them, despite the many and obvious advantages.

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:11PM (#41986583) Homepage

    Is there seriously a need to come up with new methods other than good old fashioned fucking?

    No - if you consider humanity only as a homogeneous mass of animal flesh.

    As someone married to a mother, let me give an alternative view : Yes, definitely. Ever witnessed a birth, even with an epidural ? Or just stood in the same building of the hospital maternity ward ? Every 10 babies or so you will hear the screams. While many young women, and most men have this romanticized notion of birth (for obvious reasons), but you'll find a much different view among women who've already given birth.

    On another note...when asking "why" it like we have some type of population problems? Not enough people being born?

    No, it's because individuals have this crazy instinct to fulfil their biological urges by propagating their DNA.

    Actually yes, we do. The human birthrate is falling worldwide, right now still heading to overpopulation in the short term, as the total number of young people is still increasing (the number of babies is very close to stagnation, and will soon start to drop though). However, if the decreasing fertility trends spread around the globe (and they are), once we hit ~2055, the number of humans alive will fall off a cliff, which will not be a desirable outcome at all. A little before that, so many people will become pensioners it won't be funny at all. It won't be localized anywhere, it'll be global. Think recession, but with no cheap mexicans/asians/africans to import at all, and every country having the exact same problem.

    Regardless of how far robotics will be along at the time (and there's always the chance it won't be far enough along at all), do you really think having a country's population drop by ~8% per year for 2 decades will lead to stable countries ?

    So it would be very prudent to start breeding humans, which imho is only unethical if they are somehow treated as inferior to the rest of us, in 10-15 years in relatively large numbers (hundreds of thousands a year). We can still let the total population drop, but slowly, in a way that countries, nations and we ourselves might actually survive.

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