Friday, September 29, 2023

Researchers seek authorization to use an artificial uterus to help very premature babies

On Tuesday, discussions begin on whether or not it is possible to authorize artificial pregnancy tests with human babies. The goal is to give more opportunities to very premature babies.

The artificial uterus, the machine capable of reproducing the conditions of the mother’s womb, is no longer a utopia. Dozens of laboratories are working on the subject. It has even been six years since the most advanced, Vitara Biomedical, managed to incubate lambs for several months in one of its superincubators.

They say they are ready to conduct tests on human babies. Therefore, they need authorization. And it is the ethical and regulatory conditions of this possible authorization that will be discussed by the FDA (Food & Drugs Administration), the American drug control body, starting on Tuesday, September 19.

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Still far from an artificial GPA

This is not to question the issue of surrogacy, technology is incapable of managing the complete development of a baby, from conception to birth. The incubator simply manages to reproduce some elements such as oxygenation through the umbilical cord. It would only work with premature babies from 23 to 28 weeks, that is, between four and six months of pregnancy.

When you put a premature baby on a ventilator, you risk damaging his lungs, which at this stage are still filled with amniotic fluid. It should be remembered that premature birth continues to be the main cause of mortality and disability among children under five years of age. Therefore, being able to care for them without a respirator would be a colossal step forward.

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Sensitive debates

But this possible breakthrough also raises many questions, because we are still talking about using human babies as guinea pigs to develop these incubators. The debates are expected to last two days. But there is no guarantee that a decision will be made immediately. The discussion could simply be postponed until additional information is available.

The issue is obviously delicate: we must discuss the legal status of the embryo, the possible “objectification” of the child, without even addressing science fiction issues, such as the human being entirely conceived in the laboratory.

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The GPA debate was perhaps just a warm-up. The issue of artificial pregnancy could soon inflame public opinion.

Times of National
Times of National
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