How babies will be made in the Future
Every adult knows how babies are made — reproduction has been the same for humans since pre-historic times. But since Louise Brown was born in 25 July, 1978, the first in vitro fertilisation (IVF) baby, the mechanics of reproduction has forever changed.
Today, people with fertility problems can be happy parents thanks to technology, and doctors, scientists and entrepreneurs knowledgeable about reproductive technologies predict that so much more can happen in the future.
Here are some of their predictions that may amaze or scare you:
1. Having more than two parents. Egg and sperm donors and surrogate mothers have already made three biological parents possible. But more complex configurations can happen in the future. Here’s what’s happening at present:
- Two eggs, one sperm. The American Food and Drug Administration is considering approving a technique that combines an egg nucleus with mitochondrial DNA from another egg. This technique can eliminate diseases carried through mitochondrial DNA and has been successful in lab tests.
- Uterus transplants. Since 2012, Sweden has been allowing the healthy uterus of one donor relative (usually the patient’s mother) to be transplanted into the patient’s abdomen. The 9 women who have taken the procedure are undergoing IVF to see whether they can carry their babies using another person’s womb.
2. ‘Personalised’ biological clocks for late conceptions. Many factors about living today have led women to want to give birth only later in life. Usually, women who try to conceive beyond 30 go through an expensive IVF treatment without knowing if they can meet its physical demands.
In come services like Univfy that use predictive models that help women see the likelihood they can conceive at a certain age. Founder, ob‑gyn and fertility researcher Mylene Yao said that with Univfy, women no longer have to rely on rough estimates on the likelihood of conception that fertility clinics give.
3. Perfectly-timed conceptions. Would-be mums usually keep track of ovulation by monitoring menstrual cycles and thermometres. However, these basic trackers are still highly predictive. Here are some breakthroughs that can change conception and pregnancy altogether:
- Timing ovulation more accurately. Fertility-tracking app Glow wants to help make sex and conception timed more perfectly. Co-founder Max Levchin envisions a sticky-thermometre that can monitor the temperature of an ovulating woman more accurately, feeding into a pool of information that can help people understand fertility patterns more clearly.
- Implantable sensors. Technology behind the ovulation device can also be taken a step further by monitoring the conditions inside the womb. Taiwanese developers are already coming up with such a technology, called Fetus Care, which uses sensors to detect uterine contractions and abnormal heart rates.
4. Man-made sperm and eggs. This may take a long while to develop, but sperm and egg cells may be made through stem cells originally taken from an adult man or woman’s cell. This path is especially a piece of good news for same-sex couples who want to remove third party donors when having a child.
5. Babies having the best genomes. Today, pre-natal screenings make it possible for parents to see their child even before they come out of the womb. However, this has led to a modern problem of increased abortion when parents find out that the fetus has an extra digit.
Screenings like this could be taken to the extremes in the future. Embryos can have their entire genome screened during the IVF process, giving parents the chance to ‘see’ if their babies come out with their preferred traits. This could mean that parents will choose babies with the ‘best’ genomes and disregard the rest.