If the conditions within the womb are mimicked, and proper amniotic fluid with constantly recycling nutrients is maintained, is it not possible to obtain an artificial womb? Is there anything missing? I think, artificial womb, if possible, could open new ways to study human anatomy and development and further the research studies. Starting with test tube fertilization, one could observe the entire process of growth of a zygote to a fetus.
It is impossible at present to reproduce all the conditions of a womb.
A womb is more than a warm fluid-filled home for nine months. A few days after fertilization, the trophoblast portion of the conceptus attaches itself to the uterine wall where it develops into a placenta and umbilical cord while the rest (the epiblast) becomes the baby.
Throughout the pregnancy, the mother delivers oxygen, nutrients and hormones through the her blood flow to the placenta, while carrying away waste. The womb also prevents infection of the placenta and amniotic fluid.
In addition, the placenta contributes to amniotic fluid production. Production and reabsorption of amniotic fluid is a very dynamic process; it isn’t just there. It is estimated that more than 95% of amniotic fluid turns over on daily basis, and the fluid composition changes throughout pregnancy.
While cell cultures of the womb's endometrium have been grown, there is nothing artificial which is close to this kind of environment yet, nor is there likely to be in the near future.
Artificial amniotic fluid has been used on goats, and for premature human babies.
- In the 1996 experiment, Thomas Shaffer, a scientist at Temple University, used an oxygenated liquid in a clinical trial with thirteen infants born at twenty-three to twenty-four weeks who were not expected to survive, and seven babies were discharged healthy. Jonathan Knight, An Out of Body Experience, 419 NATURE 106, 106-07 (2002); Partial Liquid Ventilation with Perflubron in Premature Infants with Severe Respiratory Distress Syndrome, 335 N. ENG. J. MED. 761, 761 (1996) (documenting scientific results from Shaffer's experiment).
Also in 1996, Japanese professor Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara of Juntendo University, successfully gestated goat embryos in a machine that holds amniotic fluid in tanks.
Dr. Helen Hung-Ching Liu, Director of the Reproductive Endocrine Laboratory at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Cornell University. In 2003, her team was able to grow a mouse embryo, almost to full term, by adding engineered endometrium tissue to a bio-engineered, extra-uterine "scaffold." Recently she grew a human embryo, for 10 days in an artificial womb. However, legislation imposes a 14-day limit on any research project of this nature.
Even if we do get a working artificial womb - we don't know how much we might be missing. Something that appears to work, may not be as good as the natural system. And we will have some difficulty in testing it in non-animal applications.
I'm trying to find the laws, but I believe we're currently precluded from pursuing artificial wombs mostly because of legal measures, not particularly by engineering problems. Also, allegedly, the US is one of the most un-regulated first world nations for this type of research (while saying you can only research this for 14 days, smh).