Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

March 19, 2021

Growing mouse embryos In a Mechanical Womb

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:00 AM

Scientists from Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel,have achieved a major milestone in the research on pregnancy and how it works. For the first time, they were able to take fertilized eggs from the oviducts of female mice just after fertilization (Day 0 of development) and had grown them in the artificial uterus for 11 days. The gestation period of mice is 20 days so in human terms it would be about 5 months of pregnancy.

The mouse embryos looked perfectly normal. All their organs were developing as expected, along with their limbs and circulatory and nervous systems. Their tiny hearts were beating at a normal 170 beats per minute.

The major problem the scientists are now facing is how to get enough nutrients to the embryo so that they can survive post the 11 day mark. As by then the embryo has a placenta and a yolk sack, but the nutrient solution that fed them through diffusion is no longer sufficient without a blood supply.

This is a really cool break through, and once the problem of getting nutrients post 11 days is solved we can expect similar experiments with mammal and then human embryo’s. The medical advantages of this technique are vast, it will allow doctors to monitor the fetus for abnormalities and correct them if required. Another advantage would be to allow couples to have a child without having to bear the child naturally which would enable folks with busy lives or those who work in dangerous environments (think armed forces) to have kids without going through a surrogate mother. Transgender couples or same-sex couples will also benefit from this technology as they would be able to have a child which wasn’t physically possible for them before.

Finally, coming to the Sci-Fi angle.. we have long talked about spaceships and it is a common trope that frozen embryo’s are sent into space to populate a distant planet with a limited no of adults to pilot the ship. Having a human gestate all the embryo’s would not be feasible but a mechanical womb would solve this problem and give us a way to travel to the stars. A few days ago I was reading about this push to have a vault established on the moon with frozen sperm and eggs to be used in case of a global catastrophe to repopulate the planet. Till now it would not work without human wombs but if we can get the mechanical womb to work with a reasonable success rate then having a seed vault on the moon suddenly becomes feasible.

Obviously, there is a lot more work required before we are at a stage where humans are born from a mechanical womb but this is an important step in that journey.

Check out the paper published in Nature for more technical details on the achievement.

Thanks to Scientists Grow Mouse Embryos In a Mechanical Womb for the initial story.

– Suramya

1 Comment »

  1. Krishna Visweswaran

    What a brave new world we are creating!

    Comment by Krishna Visweswaran — March 19, 2021 @ 7:41 AM

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress