Demographic decline: a biotechnologist invents a “baby factory” to give birth to 30,000 children a year

Infertility problems are more and more frequent in the world, scientists even speak of a “global infertility crisis” as the figures are alarming. In France, for example, and according to data from theNational Perinatal Survey (ENP) and the Epidemiological Observatory of Fertility in France (Obseff), 15 to 25% of couples are concerned. Couples with these problems resort to in vitro fertilization or, where local law permits, surrogate mothers to conceive a child. But another solution could be envisaged in the near future : the artificial uterus. It’s a process already offered in 2017 under the name of Biobag and it was used to bring forth a little lamb. Inspired by the inventors of the Biobag, Hashem Al-Ghaili has just unveiled the EctoLife, a concept of an artificial uterus for humans. Discovery.

What is EctoLife?

In interview published in the journal Science and Stuff, Hashem Al-Ghailia biotechnologist, explains that the EctoLife could enable 30,000 babies to be born every year. According to him, the question of the use of an artificial uterus is blocked by more ethical than scientific questions, because the artificial uterus process already exists, but clashes with consciences. However, he asserts that society is changing and that the artificial uterus could even replace traditional births for women worried about pregnancy complications for example. It could especially be a solution for infertile couples or couples awaiting adoption, a procedure that can sometimes take years.

Meeting the needs of parents “tired of waiting for an answer from an adoption agency” Photo credit: Hashem Al-Ghaili

Infertility on the rise

WHO estimates that 15% of couples of reproductive age worldwide are affected by infertility. At the same time, fertility rates have fallen by 50% in 70 years. The WHO explains this impressive decline by various factors: work and education of women, high cost of raising a child, but also a drop in the number of spermatozoa in men. WhenHashem Al-Ghaili imagined the EctoLife, so he thought of making a synthetic uterus in order to make procreation simpler, safer and also cheaper as some assisted reproduction techniques. Furthermore, he explains that the development of a fetus in an artificial womb avoids the emotional shocks of both parties as in the case of the choice of a surrogate mother.

How would the EctoLife work?

The inventor of this artificial uterus explains that his invention would ” develop in time without any biological obstacle”. And that it would be a solution for infertile couples, but also for women who had to undergo the removal of the uterus following cancer, or those who are carriers of viruses transmissible in utero, etc. Concretely, the artificial uterus would eradicate frequent miscarriages among women who choose medically assisted procreation. In 2017, the Biobag made it possible to grow eight lamb fetuses for 120 days, then mouse embryos. For the inventor, human embryos are the next stage of artificial wombs, even if the first tests should not be carried out before 10 or 15 years according to the inventor.

EctoLife may one day supplant traditional birth.
EctoLife may one day supplant traditional birth. Photo credit: Hashem Al-Ghaili

Concretely, for a human fetus to develop in an artificial uterus, it will first be necessary to fertilize the eggs and the sperm in vitro and then to select the genetically superior viable embryos. The selected embryos will then be inserted into the EctoLife to develop there for 9 months or less. In effect, he also thinks he can reduce the gestation time, as was the case with mouse embryos (11 days only). The EctoLife would also make it possible to detect congenital diseases on embryos, or to prevent their development. He also explains that parents could genetically modify the embryo, but this is (yet) another debate!

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Demographic decline: a biotechnologist invents a “baby factory” to give birth to 30,000 children a year

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