Hope for preemies as artificial womb helps tiny lambs grow

Reports state that the study, which was published on Tuesday, invoked eight animals and the researchers noted that these artificial devices appeared effective at helping the premature foetuses of the animals to develop normally for nearly a month. A study published Tuesday involving eight animals found the device appears effective at enabling very premature fetuses to develop normally for about a month.

According to Flake within the next 10 years extremely premature infants would be able to continue to develop in chambers filled with amniotic fluid, as opposed to lying in incubators attached to ventilators.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in the United Kingdom also report poor survival of babies born at gestations below 24 weeks, despite great progress in neonatal care.

Current treatment has pushed the boundary of survivability to 22 or 23 weeks, but comes at a high cost.

The artificial womb, developed by scientists at the Centre for Foetal Research at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, is now being tested on foetal lambs, born at the equivalent in age to a child born at 23 weeks.

Around 30,000 babies are born prematurely in the USA each year and many suffer for the rest of their lives as a result.

Unlike the Pennsylvania researchers' device, which relies on the fetus' heart to pump its blood, the MI system uses a mechanical pump.

Researchers in Philadelphia have successfully gestated premature lambs in sealed plastic bags outside the womb, giving some hope for critically premature human babies (and their parents) at some point in the future.

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"We start with a tiny foetus that is pretty inert and spends most of its time sleeping". Image credit: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "It's hard to describe actually how uniquely awe-inspiring it is to see".

Although the technology has only been tested on sheep, researchers hope it could become a lifesaver for many premature human babies in just a few years. It can definitely save severely premature babies to develop into normal ones.

One of the biggest struggles for doctors to care for premature babies is to make sure they are getting the right amount of oxygen.

The lambs were in a special amniotic fluid that had chemicals created to promote growth. They've had normal lung maturation.

Over the years we've got better at caring for those infants, and survival rates have risen, but those who survive are still at risk of infections, lung damage and lasting disabilities. The newest artificial womb is simpler than previous attempts developed by other researchers.

"We make gallons of this stuff a day, " said foetal physiologist Marcus Davey. It's now an electrolyte solution; he's working to add other factors to make it more like real amniotic fluid. A low-resistance external oxygenator substitutes for the mother's placenta in exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. The lambs' hearts circulated the blood, and there was no need for another pump.

The good news is when the lambs were removed from the Biobag and placed on a regular ventilator like a premature human baby, their health was almost as good as lambs of the same age that had been delivered via cesarean section. Electronic monitors measured vital signs, blood flow and other crucial functions.

The artificial womb managed to keep two lambs alive for two weeks.

  • Myrtle Hill