The latest astounding miracle of medical science has come out thanks to the efforts of a medical team in Eastern Virginia. A human embryo first conceived in 1989 was frozen for twenty years by two parents, and then transplanted to a surrogate mother who then gave birth to it in May of this year. To date it is the longest time a human embryo has been conceived and frozen before being born successfully.
The incredible announcement was made in a written analysis in the journal Fertility and Sterility. As the scientists involved declared that thus far the procedure had been successful. And of course this isn’t the first time a child has been born that had been conceived years prior, but it is certainly an unusual thing to consider for the future.
Will we eventually live in a world where people who have been frozen for several generations are finally brought into a new world? According to fertility experts, we could even use current technology to preserve embryos for an indefinite period of time. Some day a person conceived a century before may be brought out of isolation and born to the descendants of his biological parents.
But while the process is incredibly interesting from a purely scientific perspective, will there be challenges to introducing people from generations prior into a new environment? While it may not have a direct impact on natural selection (or the model currently in use in our society) immediately, it could hold potential for some exciting and perhaps terrifying future innovations and projects.
Consider the Svalbard Seed Vault first created in 2008. The project was designed so that in the event of a worldwide catastrophe, a great deal of the world’s seeds would be accessible eventually and once again reseed the planet. But what about the fauna of the planet? Many plants depend on animals and humans in order for them to reach their potential and thrive. Could the technology used to preserve embryos be used for access by future generations so the human race could survive as well? Of course in theory the project would also require humans to bring back this vast underground ark. At least currently it would.
In February of 2009, Nick Otway from New South Wales Department of Primary Industries proposed that an artificial uterus could be created to save Grey Nurse Sharks from extinction. And with the attention the procedure received at the time, many asked the obvious question, could it ever work with humans?
So the ultimate futuristic proposal, and this is where it enters the world of mad science, could be made that a seed vault carrying hundreds or possibly thousands of embryos frozen deep within the tundras of Greenland or the Arctic could be preserved with little power and then eventually thawed and introduced into an artificial nursing system that would raise human children with a robotic system using technology not far from our current state in the future. While the scenario is at the moment nothing more than science fiction fodder, could we one day find ourselves in a world where the human race is saved from extinction by a similar system to the seed vault in Svalbard? Imagine the last of the human race kept alive in a ship in a bottle to be revived hundreds or possibly thousands of years after it was first conceived. And while it may sound preposterous to those of us living in the year 2010, will those of 2050 consider it a possibility?