The concept of artificial wombs is not new
The birth of Kaurava Brothers of Indian epic Mahabharat is a classic story of babies born motherless from artificial wombs. It says how a couple transcended a curse and gave continuity to their legacy by giving birth to their kids in artificial wombs created in pots. Sensible people always treated such stories as the creation of imaginative minds. However, now, science is galloping to make artificial wombs a reality.
Mass production of Motherless Babies
A writer of modern times, George Orwell, in his book 1984, wrote about such a system of mass production of different kinds of humans as per the need of society. Mahabharat story had the touch of divinity whereas the book “1984″ pointed to a scientific possibility based on the growth of science during 1940. That possibility is progressing toward creating Artificial Wombs. It may create panic among the puritans of the world as it happened in the case of cloning.
At a glance, it may appear as an achievement and a blessing to ladies. However, it will have profound implications if ever it gets a free run over the society. It will give birth to a generation devoid of biological mothers. Admittedly, the era of babies Born motherless may take another 20 or 30 years to strike us with full force.
Infertility and the Panaceas offered by science
From time immemorial, societies have perceived infertility as a bad thing. However, as time moved on, science gave people suffered infertility a way out. Causes of infertility in most cases are related to ovulation blockage of fallopian tubes or low sperm count. Doctors tried artificial insemination in many cases. Also, they have been researching for better options. They did find a new way, and Louise Brown was born through this new technology christened as in vitro fertilization.
Then onwards invitro fertilization gained acceptance. Surrogacy and cloning all followed one by one. Creation of artificial womb also is a way to combat infertility. As cloning was viewed as a cardinal sin, no one is willing to talk about it. If cloning would bring endless replicas of an individual, artificial wombs may bring a generation who don’t have umbilical cord relation with the human race. The rapid stride achieved in genetic engineering, and biotechnology already has acquired the ability to create all-powerful and no-nonsense beings, through embryo editing.
So far, society has not permitted them to do an experiment with human embryo. By creating artificial wombs orectogenesis, as it is known in the scientific circle, they may get a chance to create superman or woman at their will. They may also succeed in altering the destiny of the human race that way.
Babies Born Motherless or Ectogenesis: what it means?
The concept of artificial womb was first mooted in 1924 by JBS Haldane, a famous science writer. He coined the term ectogenesis. In scientific parlance, what we do at present in the neonatal intensive care units is partial ectogenesis. We deliver and take care of premature babies and nurture them into life, with great success. Even though the idea of ectogenesis took root in 1924, it started baby stepping in 1990 only.
The Japanese researchers succeeded in keeping goat fetuses alive in a machine filled with amniotic fluid for a few weeks. Scientists are now aiming for a full gestation period of goats in machines. Medical science has several cases to prove that even babies born in the 18th week of gestation. They claim to have survived all the odds with the help of modern technology available in neonatal care units. We have to remember that the full gestation period is 40 weeks for human beings. Then only, we can understand how great was the achievement of NICU in the above mentioned case.
Researchers have realized that if the uterus environment can be created out of the body, it would support mammalian fetuses in early pregnancy period. If science succeeds in creating artificial human amniotic fluid, then a developing human can be transferred to a system that has a placenta and umbilical cord to keep it growing.
Artificial wombs and ethical issues
As it happened in the case of cloning, the concept of motherless babies also raises ethical arguments. People who frown upon this move anticipate the inappropriate application of this science. Anyway, it will take a long distance to reach there. If we attain that, instead of a developing human, an in vitro fertilized egg could be placed in that system. Then it would grow there without any disturbance for the full period. If it is inside of a human womb, a number of pregnancy-related issues could disturb it. But inside an artificial womb, nothing of the sort affects it. The technicians, biologists, and doctors give it all the care it needs sans the love of a mother. The above said things may make the story of babies born motherless come true in a distant future.