05 August 2010

Recent Advances in Developing Artificial Uteruses -- Guest Article

Recent Advances in Developing Artificial Uteruses

by Kathy Wilson

One of the biggest miracles we see every day is the ability to create human life – the conception and birth of a baby is a wondrous happening that the human brain will never be able to completely replicate artificially. Even so, great strides have been made in boosting fertility and aiding conception through advances in the medical field, the artificial uterus being one such pioneering effort. We’ve all heard of assisted reproductive techniques like artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization and even other more complicated procedures like ICSI and GIFT. But an artificial uterus is a relatively unheard of concept, one that is only just gaining steam.

It’s only a prototype now, but a working one that shows promise and possibility. Scientists and researchers at the Cornell University's Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility have succeeded in taking cells from the endometrium, the lining of the womb, and growing them in a lab using hormones and other growth factors. Tests have already been run using fetuses not used in IVF procedures, and they have shown that they’re able to attach themselves to the lining of the artificial womb. Further trials will prove the viability of this concept, but for now, the researchers are limited by IVF regulations.

Ethical aspects raise their ugly head and threaten to prevent progress in this field; on the one hand, you have abortion issues – while women are permitted to undergo an abortion legally now because the fetus is within their bodies, when they’re outside and growing in an artificial womb, will abortion amount to murder? Also, artificial wombs when combined with cloning technology are conceptually capable of allowing reproduction without involving the female factor. How far will people go to exploit this if it becomes a reality?

Artificial uteruses benefit women in more ways than just helping those with damaged and faulty uteruses conceive and take home children of their own genes – they aid professional women by allowing them to continue working without having to take time off for the pregnancy, and they are deemed to be safer environments because they are not affected by any adverse reactions (like stress and side-effects caused by drugs and alcohol) in the mother’s body.

But then, what happens to the concept of motherhood as we know it? Is the bonding of mother and child not important at all in the larger scheme of things? Artificial uteruses are ok for women who cannot conceive because they have no uteruses or damaged ones; but for the rest who are looking for a “convenient” pregnancy, ethical questions must be raised and answered before they’re allowed to do as they please.

This guest post is contributed by Kathy Wilson, who writes on the topic of x ray technician school programs . She welcomes your comments at her email id: kathywilson1983@gmail.com

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Blogger gtg723y said...

First point abortion already is murder. The time for a woman to exercise her reproductive rights is when deciding whether or not spread and who to sread for. Second point, babies begin to learn while in the womb, the food I eat effects the way amniotic fluid tastes, and will influence the foods my child prefers to eat as a child and later as an adult. A child aslo begins to learn what his mother's and father's voices sound like, as well as other typical noises that will soon be the childs imeadiate enviroment. Therfore it is safe to say that a child begins to learn the culture in whic it will be brought up before it is even born. While the artificial uterus has many applications, I do not think it will make women absolete. The technology will probably result in abortion being made illegal again, as women will have the option to give up their fetus for adoption and the fetus will then be develope in the artifical uterus. The artificial uterus will also help rais the servivability of children born premature. Although I do find the experimentation process to develope such a technology to be very grey, as many a potential child will be lost in the process.

Friday, 06 August, 2010  
Blogger Richard Sharpe said...

Artificial uteruses also benefit dictators who want to breed a master race of soldiers ...

They also free men from needing women.

Friday, 06 August, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

It might be best to think of the artificial uterus as a tool which could be put to a wide range of uses.

The uterus is not a complex organ, as organs go. Most of the complexity is within the placenta / umbilical complex and the fetus itself.

An artificial uterus would need to provide close to the full range of sensory phenomenon for the developing fetus which a mother's body provides -- without the tobacco, alcohol, and crack cocaine, of course.

Saturday, 07 August, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

Sperm donation frees women from needing men, well many men anyway. The placenta and umbilical cord are built by the fetus. The placenta is formed during the first trimester after implantation. The genetic code that instructs the building of the structures is encoded in the egg, which is why it is so large. The egg also provides the fetus with food for the first week or so until implantation is successful. So even with the invention of an artificial uterus there will always be a need for women, where would you get the eggs? A fetus that has been fertilized has a small window of time to implant and begin the process of building a placenta and umbilical cord; if that window is missed a miscarriage occurs. Al Fin is right, the uterus doesn’t do much, the heavy lifting occurs in the placenta and umbilical cord both of which the egg is responsible for, so that does make the researchers job much easier.

Saturday, 07 August, 2010  
Blogger Richard Sharpe said...

The placenta is formed during the first trimester after implantation. The genetic code that instructs the building of the structures is encoded in the egg, which is why it is so large.

Could you elaborate on that? Apart from mitochondria, I though that the only genetic material carried by the egg was the half contributed by the mother, which obviously carries an X chromosome, but it is not clear that the encoding for the placenta must be on the X chromosome.

If this page is anything to go by Human Embroyogenesis and the WikiPedia page it comes from, then the placenta develops from the trophoblast and would appear not to be anything special to the egg.

Of course there would have to be a supply of eggs as well ...

Sunday, 08 August, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

I was recently pregnant, she is 7 months now, and that was the overview my OB gave me. According to whattoexpect.com immediately after fertilization the embryo differentiates into the clumps, the cells in the center and the cells that line the outer protective shell of the egg. Where the egg has a fluid that the embryo feeds off of. Once the egg touches the uterus a chemical reaction occurs and the shell dissolves while simultaneously burrowing into the uterus, sometimes there is bleeding. The cells that were lining the egg become the placenta and cord, the cells in the center go on to become the child. The placenta is the babies liver, as the liver comes on line at around week 38? Either way the difficult part will be getting the artificial uterus to grow spiral arteries and capillaries. Well convincing most women with the baby bug to trust said uterus will not easy either.

Monday, 09 August, 2010  
Blogger Richard Sharpe said...

I was commenting on this statement:

The genetic code that instructs the building of the structures is encoded in the egg, which is why it is so large.

It is my understanding that this is not true. The reason the egg is so large, compared with sperm, is that it contains mitochondria, sperm do not. Mitocondrial DNA is passed down via mothers only.

This is a fundamental compromise made by all sexual species, where one sex expends lots of energy in producing relatively unmoving gametes while the other produces large numbers of highly motile gametes (relatively speaking). In some groups this is taken to enormous extremes, eg, gestation and subsequent lactation ...

Tuesday, 10 August, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

Thankyou for your questioning, upon further research I have discovered that my doctor may have oversimplified his answer. I asked him how the placenta was made and he said it was part of the eggs inner shell, and that the egg is so large because it provides food for the embryo inside and then the inner portion of the shell becomes the placenta. While this is correct it left out where the genetic code for the placenta comes from. I had assumed that because it was part of the egg it must come from the mother. But it appears that this is incorrect and that the cells that form the placenta differentiate from the embryo the moment after fertilization.

Wednesday, 11 August, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real problem will be to emulate the body of the mother to filter out waste and give nutrients and hormons.

What will be the hormonal level choosen for the baby? Changing the quantity and ratios of the hormones will change how the embrio and the fetus will develop.

Anyway, the fetus can be exposed to any and all stimulus that he/she would experience in the mother uterus. Light, sound, hormones of the mother, whatever.
Given the ultimately better environment of the artificial womb, the individuals developed inside would be healthier and more fit than their natural born counterparts.

Thursday, 12 August, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

That really depends on the mother. Some mothers smoke, drink, and be marry, others go organic, workout, and drink nothing but water. Most moms are in between those two extremes. I like your point about the hormones, a lot more research is going to have to be done on many other fronts besides just the uterus. Being pregnant is so much more than just having a uterus.

Friday, 13 August, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it would be a good idea to create artificial wombs. It would not matter if it changed abortion from killing the fetus to moving it to the artificial womb, infact that would be better as everyone wins all round. It would get to live, and the woman could carryone as if nothing has happened, she would not have killed it, and she would never have to tell anyone she had it removed. I do not understand why a pro choice person would be appose to this.

Saturday, 02 April, 2011  

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