Illustration for the cover of Focus Magazine Italy on the design and development of a true ‘Artificial Womb’ – Also used as a 2 page spread opener for the interior of the magazine. For commissions, syndications, or to be added to our mailing list please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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. A similar scenario was also used 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 also discusses synthetic wombs in his novel The Divine Invasion.
Primary research into the engineering of an artificial uterus was conducted at the Cornell University Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility, under Dr. Hung-Ching Liu. 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.