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Hashem Al-Ghaili is a Berlin-based producer, filmmaker, science communicator, and molecular biologist by trade. He was born on August 11, 1990 in Hajjah, Yemen and is the creator of EctoLife. EctoLife is said to be a concept that offers parents to ‘produce’ customised babies with the help of artificial wombs and the facility can produce 30, 000 babies a year.
But the Centre for Genetics and Society said not so fast. Pete Hanks, author of Human Genetic Engineering: A Guide for Activists, Skeptics, and the Very Perplexed’ writing for the journal raised questions about the Facility.
In an article titled, ‘Bespoke Babies Without the Hassle of Pregnancy! Yeah, Right’ (December 23, 2022), Hanks stated: – “Clearly, this particular project is not ready for prime time…. But the vision of the future it promotes is one that some scientists and fertility industry entrepreneurs would like to make a reality, as we have discussed several times. And certainly, despite Professor Shennan’s simplistic attempt to gloss over the issues, there are many ethical as well as physical dangers to consider.”
The 126-year-old Daily Mail newspaper, based in the United Kingdom (UK), stated “[t]he process would use invitro fertilisation, allowing parents to choose the ‘most viable and genetically superior embryo,’ which can also be genetically engineered to customize traits, including physical strength and eliminating inherited diseases.”
In said article, written by Stacy Liberatore (December 12, 2022), it was stated “while the video is a concept, Al-Ghaili said it is based on ’50 years of groundbreaking scientific research conducted by researchers worldwide,’ and such birthing pods could be widespread in ‘just decades’ from now.”
The Facility is said to feature 75 labs, each with up to 400 growth pods designed to replicate the real-life conditions of the mother’s womb and includes sensors that monitor the baby’s vitals.
Although the “new video might seem like a breakthrough, artificial wombs have been the talk of the scientific community since 1923, when it was first introduced at a lecture by an English biologist. Then in 1955, scientists unveiled a tank that would grow a fetus. This design featured amniotic fluid, a machine connecting to the umbilical cord, blood pumps, an artificial kidney and a water heater,” wrote Liberatore.
Liberatore went further, stating in “2020, researchers succeeded in creating a viable artificial womb in rabbits. Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and colleagues made uterus tissue cultivated from rabbits’ uterine cells, which they seeded onto a biodegradable scaffold. Pioneered by the team, this broad approach has previously been used in humans to restore function to tubular organs like the urethra and specific hollow organs, including the bladder and vagina.”
Hanks said “If Al-Ghaili’s publicity stunt leads to more and better-informed discussion of these issues, then maybe it will have some redeeming value despite itself. We need education and conversation, not glib fantasies.”
Some have outright dismissed the concept as a hoax and said as much.
Professor Joyce Harper, head of the Reproductive Science and Society Group, at University College London (UCL) Institute for Women’s Health believes it could be possible. She told Rachel Moss (December 13, 2022), Huffington Post (UK) she has no doubt that at some point, most people will be produced by In Vitro fertilization (IVF), and that this [EctoLife] would be a possibility, and in science you should never say never.