Biobag: An Artificial Womb

By Sarah Grave de Peralta

While doing my periodic, late-night social media browsing, I came across a curious post on Facebook. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has turned science fiction into reality; they have successfully created an artificial womb. The lucky subject that has survived this experiment is a baby goat. Scientists have named this synthetic womb a Biobag. The baby goat was placed in the Biobag 105 days after its fertilization. The womb is composed of artificial amniotic fluid and a pumpless circulatory system. This invention has nullified the necessity to use tubes and other obtrusive equipment in order to preserve the life of a premature newborn.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWpsJIFbdIo

Scientists have spent decades working in this experiment. By the end of the 20th century, researchers in Tokyo had designed a way to incubate a fetus that resembled the womb. The Biobag has not been finalized; however, it is believed that it could support a 22 week old human fetus. Incubators currently in use can only support 24 week old babies. They also involve countless tubes and machinery. And in spite of all the efforts put in by the health professionals, many premature newborns do not survive this early stage, and the ones that do survive, live a difficult life due to organs that were never fully developed. The Biobag provides many advantages since it is an imitation of the natural womb. It imitates a natural environment in which the body can keep growing, ensuring that the person lives an easier and less painful life. The artificial womb provides nutrition and the perfect conditions for the baby to breath the amniotic fluid, same as if it were still inside its mother’s womb.

While reading news reports and watching YouTube videos, I remembered Haraway’s theory in respect to cyborgs. Haraway defines a cyborg as “a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.” Since the fetus is attached to, surrounded by, and kept alive by machines and chemicals, it has become a cyborg. The fetus cannot survive on its own without the help of a Biobag. It is a machine as much as it is an organic being. The baby goat used in this experiment is a chimera. Haraway stated that in our time it is impossible to not be a chimera. We all rely in technology to facilitate our survival or to make some tasks easier. If you use glasses, asthma inhalers, have fake teeth, or need orthopedic shoes, you are already a chimera. We depend on technology to maintain social relations, gather information, or simply just for entertainment.

“By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism. In short, we are all cyborgs.” – Donna Haraway

References:

Khazan, Olga. “Babies Floating in Fluid-Filled Bags.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 25 Apr. 2017. Web. 25 Apr. 2017. www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/04/preemies-floating-in-fluid-filled-bags/524181/

Campanella, Emanuela. “Scientists grew lambs in artificial wombs. They want premature babies to be next.” Global News. N.p., 26 Apr. 2017. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. http://globalnews.ca/news/3405710/scientists-grew-lambs-in-artificial-wombs-they-want-premature-babies-to-be-next/

Klass, Perri. “The Artificial Womb Is Born.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Sept. 1996. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. www.nytimes.com/1996/09/29/magazine/the-artificial-womb-is-born.html

A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway

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