Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Everything you need to know about artificial wombs

Cassandra Willyard
MIT Technology Review
Originally posted 29 SEPT 23

Here is an excerpt:

What is an artificial womb?

An artificial womb is an experimental medical device intended to provide a womblike environment for extremely premature infants. In most of the technologies, the infant would float in a clear “biobag,” surrounded by fluid. The idea is that preemies could spend a few weeks continuing to develop in this device after birth, so that “when they’re transitioned from the device, they’re more capable of surviving and having fewer complications with conventional treatment,” says George Mychaliska, a pediatric surgeon at the University of Michigan.

One of the main limiting factors for survival in extremely premature babies is lung development. Rather than breathing air, babies in an artificial womb would have their lungs filled with lab-made amniotic fluid, that mimics the amniotic fluid they would have hadjust like they would in utero. Neonatologists would insert tubes into blood vessels in the umbilical cord so that the infant’s blood could cycle through an artificial lung to pick up oxygen. 

The device closest to being ready to be tested in humans, called the EXTrauterine Environment for Newborn Development, or EXTEND, encases the baby in a container filled with lab-made amniotic fluid. It was invented by Alan Flake and Marcus Davey at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and is being developed by Vitara Biomedical.

Here is my take:

Artificial wombs are experimental medical devices that aim to provide a womb-like environment for extremely premature infants. The technology is still in its early stages of development, but it has the potential to save the lives of many babies who would otherwise not survive.

Overall, artificial wombs are a promising new technology with the potential to revolutionize the care of premature infants. However, more research is needed to fully understand the risks and benefits of the technology before it can be widely used.

Here are some additional ethical concerns that have been raised about artificial wombs:
  • The potential for artificial wombs to be used to create designer babies or to prolong the lives of fetuses with severe disabilities.
  • The potential for artificial wombs to be used to exploit or traffick babies.
  • The potential for artificial wombs to exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities.
It is important to have a public conversation about these ethical concerns before artificial wombs become widely available. We need to develop clear guidelines for how the technology should be used and ensure that it is used in a way that benefits all of society.