But the development raises serious ethical questions
Currently the artificial womb has been tested on fetal lambs, which have developed successfully in the artificial environment.
As described by a study published in the journal Nature Communications the artificial womb mimics a real womb in that it has a version of amniotic fluid, this one synthetic, and a machine that is attached to the womb that’s meant to connect to the umbilical cord to function like a placenta.
“We’ve been extremely successful in replacing the conditions in the womb in our lamb model,” states Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who led the study published in the journal Nature Communications, according to NPR.
“[The lambs] had normal growth. They’ve had normal lung maturation. They’ve had normal brain maturation. They’ve had normal development in every way that we can measure it.”
Despite the positive impact that the scientists hope that this artificial womb could have on human premature babies, other scientists warn of the ethical issues that could potentially arise.
“Up to now, we’ve been either born or not born. This would be halfway born, or something like that. Think about that in terms of our abortion politics,” said Dena Davis, a bioethicist at Lehigh University, to NPR.
The artificial womb has yet to be tested on human beings; researchers hope this testing would begin within the next five years. According to researchers, the womb would be used on births that occur after the 23rd or 24th week of pregnancy.