Artificial Womb is Coming – Are We Ready? #science #biology

A problem on the verge of being solved:

Extreme prematurity is the leading cause of neonatal mortality and morbidity due to a combination

Concept from 1955 – this problem’s been studied for a long time

of organ immaturity and iatrogenic injury. Until now, efforts to extend gestation using extracorporeal systems have achieved limited success.

Here we report the development of a system that incorporates a pumpless oxygenator circuit connected to the fetus of a lamb via an umbilical cord interface that is maintained within a closed ‘amniotic fluid’ circuit that closely reproduces the environment of the womb. [my emphasis] nature.com

There have been several articles about this study – I’ve quoted the researchers’ abstract. Don’t you love science-y phrases? Extracorporeal systems – so specific. Take a look at the pictures on the link – both creepy and fascinating.

This version of an artificial womb isn’t ready for use on humans – yet. But if these researchers don’t make it, someone else will. Premature babies will live healthy lives and parents will be spared tremendous grief – for them it would be utopia.

But there’s no Yin without Yang. We have some big decisions coming up. If every embryo could be raised to a healthy child, is there ever a reason to discard unused embryos from fertility treatments? Should abortions become fetus transfers? If so, who should pay for the baby – not only for birthing it, but for raising the child? Our current foster care system has a lot of problems already – I don’t see it absorbing more children.

And yet – birth rates are dropping in industrialized nations. Some governments are offering tax incentives to women to have more babies. Maybe governments would want to raise all the unwanted babies. Don’t just think of Dickensian orphanages – remember the “lying down rooms of baby houses” in the old Soviet Union. It’s the beginning of a lot of science fiction dystopias.

Advertisements

#ChildhoodsEnd on #Syfy – Invasion by aliens with a mission you don’t expect – even after 60 years of #ScienceFiciton

ChildhoodsEnd(1stEd)

1st edition cover. The book is still available.

Syfy is launching a mini-series built on Arthur C. Clarke’s classic 1953 book. It won’t debut until December but the buzz has started.

“Utopia, but at what cost?”

There are lots of stories about Utopia making us lazy, and plots based on sinisterly-friendly aliens, so why has Syfy reached back to the mid-20th century for a story?

I read Childhood’s End when I was a kid – I still have a couple pictures in my head from the book – especially of the aliens – but I had to visit Wikipedia for a plot summary. (One of my memories was dead-wrong! My head is a dangerous place to leave information gathering dust for decades.)

Clarke wrote about a world at the height of the US/Soviet Cold War, when nuclear war seemed the most likely way for humanity to exterminate itself, and before the space age – some of his story is now near-ancient history. Will Syfy choose a different time period? A different threat to global survival?

Clarke wove real physics with fantasy, action with wonder and even sadness. Will Syfy take the same approach?

Syfy has been working on the series since April, 2013. The cast has been announced. There’s Charles Danc from Game of Thrones and Ricky Stormgren from Under the Dome. Trekkies (or do you prefer Trekkers?) will remember Colm Meaney from Next Generation and Deep Space Nine (though his career goes far beyond), playing a new character who’s not in the book.

Will a story written half a century ago grab today’s viewers.? I’m an old timer myself with a soft spot for the classics, but I keep reading how science fiction has changed, how today’s readers want something different, how the classic heroes were laughably stiff and movies today need more action, more fights and explosions. Will Clarke’s haunting ending survive the move to Syfy?

I usually find TV and movie adaptations less satisfying than the books they come from, but I think I’ll wait and watch Syfy’s Childhood’s End before I re-read the novel – give it a chance. After all, we live in the 21st century.