Scientists in Suzhou, China, have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) nanny that they say could care for human embryos in the lab as they grow into fetuses, as they grow inside an artificial uterus.
For now, the nanny robot is only taking care of animal embryos. As experimentation on human embryos is prohibited by international law, according to the South China Morning Post, it will still take some time to get to that stage – if at all.
Last month, the team published their findings in the Journal of Biomedical Engineeringin an article describing the nanny robot as an “online monitoring system designed for the long-term culture of embryos”.
System would allow cultivation of fetuses in the laboratory
According to officials, the system could theoretically allow parents to grow a baby in a laboratory, thus eliminating the need for a human to carry a child. The researchers go even further: they say that this system would be safer than traditional pregnancy.
An “artificial uterus” at the moment means a container that grows a series of mouse embryos in a row of cubes filled with nutritive fluids. The AI nanny is supposedly able to monitor the embryos, detect changes and adjust the artificial environment accordingly. According to scientists, the robot can even alert a technician in case an embryo develops an abnormality or dies.
While the technology is still in its very early stages, a looming population crisis in China is serving to accelerate its development. “I don’t think technology would be a problem,” said an anonymous researcher at the Beijing Institute of Pediatrics.
However, the unnamed source believes this could risk turning hospitals into baby factories — and “no hospital would want to take that responsibility.”
If it evolves, perhaps the proposed new technology could help couples struggling to have children finally become parents. In any case, it is necessary to beware of the considerable ethical implications of such a system as well.
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