Artificial uterus

In the field of ectogenesis, an artificial uterus (or womb) is a mechanism that is used to grow an embryo outside of the body of a female organism that would normally internally carry the embryo to term.

An artificial uterus, as a replacement organ, could also be used to assist women with damaged or diseased uteri to be able to conceive to term. Since the uterus is grown from the woman's own endometrial cells, there would be minimal chance of organ rejection.


Primary research into the engineering of an artificial uterus was conducted at the Cornell University Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility, [ [ - Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility, New York, NY ] ] under Dr. Hung-Ching Liu. [ [ Weill Cornell Research ] ] In the year 2002 Dr. Liu announced that she and her team had grown tissue samples from cultured endometrial cells removed from a human donor. The tissue sample was then engineered to form the shape of a natural uterus, and human embryos were then implanted into the tissue. The researchers found that the embryos correctly implanted into the artificial uterus' lining and started to grow. Dr. Liu's experiments were halted after six days, to stay within the permitted legal limits of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) legislation in the United States.

Another form of artificial uterus is one in which tanks are filled with amniotic fluid which is maintained at body temperature, and the embryonic umbilical cords are attached to external pumps which regulate nutrient intake and waste outflow. A potential advantage of such a system is that it would allow the fetus to develop in an environment that is not influenced by the presence of disease, environmental pollutants, alcohol, or drugs which the mother may have in her circulatory system. However, it would also not benefit from the protection of the mother's immune system. Alternatively, it would also reduce the chances of miscarriage and premature births by allowing the embryo to develop full term outside the mother's uterus, transferred after the initial 17 weeks of implantation. Such research was being conducted by Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara (d: 2000) at Juntendo University in Tokyo.

In fiction

The use of the artificial uterus has played a significant role in science fiction:
* The most famous depiction was by Aldous Huxley in his 1932 novel, "Brave New World". In Huxley's dystopian future, children are "decanted" (manufactured) in massive factories.
* The similar scenario is true for "Logan's Run", where embryos are extracted from impregnated women to be grown in "meccano-breeders" by a computer-controlled life-support system.
* Philip K. Dick discusses "synthetic wombs" in his novel "The Divine Invasion".
* In "Dune", axlotl tanks are semi-artificial uteri, women turned into biological factories used to create ghola clones and later the spice melange.
* In "Star Wars: Episode II" on the planet Kamino a vast complex makes hundreds of thousands of human clones. It has revolving hubs of laboratory flasks (artificial uteri) containing developing embryos in nutrient solution. They will serve as soldiers for the Republic and to aid the Jedi, who would otherwise be largely outnumbered against the separatist droid armies.
* The 1982 movie "Tomorrow's Child" [] plotline is about the first baby born from an articial uterus.
* In the short-lived 1990s science fiction television series "", the InVitros are a genetically engineered race of people gestated in large laboratory flasks that serve as artificial uteri.
* The 1999 movie "The Matrix" also features the artificial gestation of humans.
* The artificial uterus has made an appearance in the Gundam series: in Gundam Wing, one of the main characters has 29 sisters that were born from artificial uterus; in Gundam SEED, Kira Yamato is designated the "Ultimate Coordinator" because he was grown from an artificial uterus.
* In the NOW Comics The Terminator comic book series in the 1980s, John Connor's resistance forces utilize artificial uteri to continue human reproduction so that the women in their fighting force do not need to be immobilized by pregnancy.
* In David Weber's Honorverse series, fetuses are routinely "tubed" in artificial uterus. Some characters, such as Allison Harrington, refrain from using this option because of moral scruples.
* In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, artificial uteri, called "uterine replicators" are widely used, and "body births" are considerably out of favor on most technologically advanced worlds, to the extent that Miles Vorkosigan disgusts some Cetagandan women by mentioning that his cousin Ivan was born from his mother's body. Miles was himself gestated in a uterine replicator. Ethan of Athos features an all-male world in which men use artificial uteri to reproduce. Children are grown in and birthed from uterine replicators.
* In The Island, cloned humans are grown to adults in artificial uteri to harvest organs.
* In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ayanami Rei is cloned from Ikari Yui and grown through some method of artificial reproduction. Much of the pseudo-technology in this series is a product of utilizing artificial propagation.
* In the Battletech Universe, almost every member of each of the Clan factions is born in an artificial uteri. In development they undergo a process that ensures their complete genetic health. They call themselves Truebirths, and feel they are superior to all who were born naturally, whom they call Freebirths.
* In Kyle XY Kyle and Jessi are grown in an artificial womb created by Adam Baylin - Kyle's Genetic Donator.
* In the 1995 movie Species, Sil, an alien-human hybrid, is grown in an artificial womb.

See also

* Ectogenesis
* In vitro fertilization
* Amniotic fluid
* Apheresis
* Hemodialysis
* Tissue engineering
* Embryo space colonization


External links

* [ Popular Science: The Future of the Body - Artificial Wombs]
* [,6903,648024,00.html]
* [ American Society for Artificial Internal Organs]
* [ European Society for Artificial Organs]
* [ Japanese Society for Artificial Organs]

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