Premature birth normally means an under-developed baby who has not yet acquired the necessary organs maturity to survive outside of mother’s womb. An incubator that partially acts as a womb extension could make the difference between life and death for the fragile newborn.
The creation of life has always been a human fantasy. According to reports from the 16th and 17th centuries, at that time alchemists started trying to produce a fully formed miniature human body, the homunculus, from a flask.
Emanuel M. Greenberg identified the issues of preemies dying due to the immaturity of their organs. He designed a system hoping to help these babies live longer. In the summer of 1955 he patented his Illustration of an artificial womb.
In 1932, English writer Aldous Huxley published his iconic novel Brave New World. This book brought the idea of the artificial uterus to the big audience, like never before, and still holds value as one of the most significant references in the sometimes heated debates on the subject of human reproductive technologies.
A very recent success brought the research in artificial wombs one step forward. A lamb born at the equivalent of 23 weeks in a human gestational period was kept alive in an artificial womb and developed just as if it was in a normal womb.
NNN is currently researching the concept of the artificial womb and its societal impact and challenges. We started with a historic investigation of the relation between technology and biological reproduction and listed the key moments in the conception of such technology throughout time, as well as related assisted reproductive technologies. Learn more about this project and read the introductory article Ectogenesis, Artificial Womb, Human Egg.
Humanity is facing the disconnection between biological reproduction and the body, facilitated by the emerging technology of the Artificial Womb. Envisioned in bleak science fiction scenarios many times in the past, this technology is about to become a reality in our present. But how will it affect our culture – and how should that new culture be designed? If birds lay eggs, why shouldn’t humans do that, too?