Researchers in Japan Successfully Gestate Goats in Synthetic Wombs!

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Tokyo researchers have successfully taken goat fetuses and put them in synthetic wombs for continued gestation!

The fetuses have stayed in the environment for up to three weeks, but Yoshinori Kuwabara, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Juntendo University in Tokyo, has said that this can be extended or applied to human beings!

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Photograph by Tom Schierlitz

Ectogenesis” was a term created by British scientist J. B. S. Haldane in 1924. He believed that, by 2074, human pregnancy would be obsolete and artificial wombs would be the norm.

Although researchers are decades away from creating technology that would allow a human fetus to gestate in an artificial womb, Haldane may not have been very off in his prediction.

Of course, many people are already throwing out their concerns with this prospect.
Most complaints have been that if women’s wombs are obsolete than will they soon be, too? Considering we have yet to replicate human ova, I think we’re in the clear. However, my main concern is the lack of time gestating in a living breathing human, and the complications for the human who started out life in an artificial womb.

One of the positives that come out of this research is that this may be a way to care for preemie babies in the future. Micro-preemies could potentially be placed directly from a human womb to an artificial womb if the pregnancy is ending early due to complications. This could be especially beneficial for lung development in babies under 30 weeks.

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What does not sit well with me is using the artificial womb for the entire duration of a pregnancy.  As more non-human mammal research is done with this project, I’m sure we will find out the psychological effects, if any, these artificially gestated animals may be facing once they are born and reach maturity.

If I had to take a guess now, I would bet there will be some problems. During gestation we hear the rhythm of our mother’s heartbeat, we know the voices of our parents and those who are around us during this time. It isn’t a detached process. That is another huge misconception about adoption. Children adopted at birth go through a grieving process. A connection has been made. There is something important about the mother-child connection in the womb, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

What do you think?

8 comments

  1. I am worried about the lack of human contact, but my first thought is that it could be an alternative to abortion for women who dont want to be pregnant (or parents). Adoption is a great alternative to parenthood but not pregnancy. Are we looking at a new alternative to pregnancy that doesnt involve termination? It could add another level of choice for women who dont feel comfortable with termination but also dont want to be (or feel that they couldnt be or shouldnt be) parents.

    Jamie, i know you have complicated feelings about abortion. Did you think about this?

    Maybe there is some kind of way we could compensate for the lack of human connection found in pregnancy.

    All that being said, I have a lot of complicated feelings about all of this

  2. I consider this vile for all of the reasons mentioned above and more. Why do this in the first place. What possible good can come from artifically creating human life? Science has once again gone too far.

  3. This isn’t artificial life Joy. The baby is still created the old fashioned way, its then transferred to the artificial womb. As for what possible good, did you not read the whole blog post? Did you not see the idea that this could be used for preemies especially for developing their lungs? Science will never go to far. The uses for this technology is not limited to what they are doing with bit now. It is both silly and asanine to say science has gone too far especially to sy “again”. Without science you wouldn’t be sitting in front of a computer judging the scientific community. Without science we would have very little of what we take for granted today.

  4. I think the prospect of helping ‘preemies’ develop in that way is an excellent one and hope it can come to fruition, and I also do like the idea of there being another option for women where neither termination nor motherhood are options.
    However, one thing they would have to be careful of, if we’re looking at the entire gestational period being in a false womb, is immunity. Foetuses gain a lot of their immunity from the biological mother as she filters antibodies through, and this is then bolstered with breastfeeding later on. To remove the biological process in such a way means removing a very important phase in the development of the child’s immune system.
    I know the bond has been mentioned but I think the actual biological implications should be considered, also.
    It is an exciting development of science though! :)

  5. As a treatment for premature birth I see value in this; however, it would obviously be detrimental to the species in the long-term if variables like abnormal gestation length are not selected against.

    As a routine practice or for human convenience, I think this tool would be extremely short-sighted. There are countless environmental influences in a human uterus that scientists are unlikely to ever replicate using a generic source of human blood and amniotic fluid, and these determine the epigenetic phenotype of the offspring. For example, hormone and nutrient levels of the mother during pregnancy vary, affect the development of the embryo, and theoretically produce a newborn better suited to the specific conditions into which it will be born (e.g. stress levels, food availability). As mentioned above, transplacental immunity is important for several species and helps prepare offspring for the antigens and allergens that they will immediately face upon birth. This would be impractical to replicate ex-vivo.

  6. I think this could too easily be misused. The only use I can see is for premature babies, but otherwise I’m not comfortable with this idea.

    • Andi, your blog name totally made my day! I thought you were spammy porn at first, but once I realized that it is a real blog it made me laugh really hard! (Awesome intro, too…)

  7. This is something I have been dreaming of for years, but as a way to replace abortion. Rather than kill the unborn fetus, to transplant it and give it another chance at life, then allow someone who wants a child and can not have one to adopt it. As we progress, there will be more couples that will adopt this way, including gay couples and those who cannot hormonally support a pregnancy/ovulate etc.

    The issues with ‘detachment’ can be dealt with. Human heartbeats can be recorded and played back constantly in the room that the wombs are housed. They could even record the expectant ‘mother’s’ heartbeat and set it up so that only her child can hear it. They could make daily visitations, once hearing is developed the new parents could read and sing to their child. I know it is not the same, and I do hope that this does not completely replace natural pregnancy, but it is an exciting prospect to think that, if this works, no couple should even have to face being childless without choice, and no woman should have to feel that they have to carry a child to full term only to give it away, or kill it, are their only options if they can’t/do not want to keep it.

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