Health Care

Researchers ideal an artificial womb that works as well as ewe do

Researchers ideal an artificial womb that works as well as ewe do”

The successful animal testing suggests the first-of-its-kind incubation might work in the case of extremely premature babies. After four weeks of development inside the fluid-filled container, the lambs opened their eyes and seemed healthy.

"These infants have an urgent need for a bridge between the mother's womb and the outside world", Alan Flake, Specialist Surgeon, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"If we can develop an extra-uterine system to support growth and organ maturation for only a few weeks, we can dramatically improve outcomes for extremely premature babies", said Flake.

The approach might one day help nurture and protect premature babies outside the uterus, providing a better chance for survival and eliminating the health risk of pregnancy.

Premature birth is one of the leading cause of neo-natal mortality across the globe. And instead of a placenta, the fetus' umbilical cord is hooked up to a machine that pumps oxygen.

The researchers want the womb to one day be used in neonatal intensive care units as an alternative to ventilation for babies born at 23 weeks gestation onwards.

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"Our system could prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants by potentially offering a medical technology that does not now exist", Dr. At the start of the test, the fetal lamb test subjects were roughly the same gestational age as a critically premature human fetus.

For the study, the researchers tested six preterm lambs transferred from their mothers' wombs to the device at 105 to 112 days of gestation - the equivalent of 23 to 24 weeks in a human.

- Then the researchers attach the umbilical cord to a machine that exchanges carbon dioxide in blood with oxygen, like a placenta normally does.

Unlike the Pennsylvania researchers' device, which relies on the fetus' heart to pump its blood, the MI system uses a mechanical pump. They appear more like oversized plastic bags with tubes and fluids rather than the Huxleyan tube babies of science fiction.

Their bodies and organs grew at a normal weight, and they got adorable white downy coats while in the bag.

The device in the fetal lamb experiment is kept in a dark, warm room where researchers can play the sounds of the mother's heart for the lamb fetus and monitor the fetus with ultrasounds.

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Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have been working on an artificial womb called the "BioBag", which, admittedly, is a bad name for a potentially unbelievable product.

Incubators isolate premature babies from bacteria and germs while outside the womb, and keep the babies warm, but are limited in offering any other supportive processes.

Flake's team hope their new system may improve survival rates among this group of babies in the future, but acknowledge it will take at least a decade.

The artificial womb managed to keep two lambs alive for two weeks. For example, Flake said he would be "very concerned" if a doctor used this device to rescue infants born earlier than 22 weeks because the system could actually inflict harm at that early of a stage in development.

She noted that human testing is still three to five years away, although the researchers are already in discussions with the Food and Drug Administration.

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