Not everyone who wants to have a baby is able to. For some people, pregnancy might be a risk to their health, while others (such as trans women and male same-sex couples) lack the necessary organs. Complete ectogenesis is a currently hypothetical procedure that would allow gestation to take place entirely outside the human body. If it became possible, it would provide an alternative to pregnancy and childbirth. An embryo would be created in vitro, using the same procedure currently used for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) (see Figure 1). The embryo would then be transferred to an artificial womb to complete gestation, mimicking conditions in the human uterus.
In 2017, scientists at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia created the ‘biobag’, an artificial womb device (see Figure 2). They tested it using lambs that had been delivered from their mothers extremely prematurely – at the very limit of viability. After delivery, each lamb was transferred to a biobag, where it successfully completed gestation. Some of the lambs were euthanised soon after birth to allow scientists to examine them but a small number were allowed to live and appeared to develop normally.
Your organisation does not have access to this article.
Sign up today to give your students the edge they need to achieve their best grades with subject expertiseSubscribe