Artificial wombs created?
Dr Kirsty Horsey
Progress Educational Trust
11 February 2002
Two groups of scientists claim that they are making progress in attempts to create 'artificial wombs' in which embryos can be gestated outside of the body, according to a report in the Observer newspaper.
A group at Cornell University in New York say that they are experimenting with prototype wombs created using cells taken from women's bodies. The cells are grown in the lab with the addition of hormones and nutrients, and modelled into the shape of a uterus using a scaffold which later dissolves. Embryos left over from IVF programmes were put into these structures, and it was seen that they attached to the walls and began to develop.
The experiments were stopped after six days, but the scientists plan to allow embryos to develop in the 'wombs' for 14 days, the maximum permitted time, to see if the cells differentiate and the embryos develop veins and a primitive placenta. If successful, later experiments will be undertaken on animals. The ultimate aim of the experiments is to help women who have difficulty conceiving because they have damaged wombs. The artificial womb, made of a woman's own cells, could be transplanted into her with little risk of rejection.
Meanwhile, a Japanese team at Juntendo University in Tokyo is taking a different approach, in experiments designed to help women who have recurrent miscarriages or very premature births. They have taken fetuses from goats and kept them alive in a tank filled with temperature-controlled amniotic fluid. The fetuses, which have their umbilical cords attached to machines that give them nutrients and dispose of waste, have so far been seen to survive for up to 10 days.
© Copyright Progress Educational Trust
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.
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