Artificial womb for baby lamb raises hope for premature babies

Artificial womb for baby lamb raises hope for premature babies”

And the team's efforts were successful, with the lambs showing normal circulation, blood pressure, metabolic processing, growth, lung development and brain development after four weeks inside the artificial womb.

The success, detailed in the journal Nature Communications, suggests human trials aren't far away. It helped out severely premature born animals to develop normally for a month.

Today, premature infants weighing as little as 500 grammes are connected to ventilators and other machines inside incubators. If a child is born before 24 weeks, it's survival rate sharply declines to 25% (paywall), and even then, only if it has the best medical care; usually babies born at this age have major health complications, too. Several advances have been made regarding neonatal intensive care, and scientists have pushed the limits of viability to 22 to 23 weeks.

The womb-like environment stimulates prenatal fluid, giving extremely premature babies more time to develop their lungs and other organs, while reducing their chance for death or disability.

Get to know about the artificial womb that scientists created to save babies who are born premature. Stat also noted that the artificial uteri can easily be contaminated with infections, and the fetal heart is weak and sometimes can't handle artificially having blood pumped into it.

The discovery could have huge implications for those human babies born extremely premature, at between 23 and 28 weeks, a CHOP press release explains. "It's hard to describe actually how uniquely awe-inspiring it is to see".

The challenge is now to develop a version of the technology for human babies, which the team believes can be done in three to five years.

"We've developed a system that, as closely as possible, reproduces the environment of the womb and replaces the function of the placenta", said Dr. Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon and director of the Center for Fetal Research in the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) who led the research, published Tuesday.

This scheme could allow for the prevention of any severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants. An extra-uterine system would be the ideal thing for such cases of premature babies. In fact, it is a bag of amniotic fluid. Half don't survive, and those who do face a 90 percent risk of lasting health problems. The newest artificial womb is simpler than previous attempts developed by other researchers.

The lambs were kept alive for four weeks in what its creators are calling "Biobags", translucent, flexible polyethylene bag-like structures filled with artificial amniotic fluid, in which oxygen is exchanged and wastes are removed as would occur in a biological uterus.

"We make gallons of this stuff a day, " said foetal physiologist Marcus Davey. Finally, he takes out the tiny lamb, umbilical cord included, and places it into the biobag, which is filled with a brew of electrolytes.

- The lamb's heart circulates the blood, without the need for any other pump. The baby lambs in the study were equivalent in age to 23-week-old human infants.

Designer of the flow apparatus, Marcus Davey (also from CHOP) explains: "Fetal lungs are created to function in fluid, and we simulate that environment here, allowing the lungs and other organs to develop, while supplying nutrients and growth factors".

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