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Tiny lambs grow in water wombs. Premature human babies could be next

Tiny lambs grow in water wombs. Premature human babies could be next

Over its four weeks in the artificial womb, the lamb started to grow a wool coat, gained weight, and even opened its eyes.

The success, detailed in the journal Nature Communications, suggests human trials aren't far away. "It's hard to describe actually how uniquely awe-inspiring it is to see".

Dr Flake said there was no technology "even on the horizon" that could replace a mother's womb at the earliest stages of foetal development.

The scientist clarified the new invention is not meant to extend viability outside of the womb further back than 23 weeks, but to support the infant from 23 weeks to 28 weeks of gestational age, when the effects of prematurity become minimal. Half don't survive, and those who do face a 90 percent risk of lasting health problems.

Dr. Marcus Davey, one of the lead authors of the study, and a prominent figure in the area of Australian fetal research declared that the artificial womb developed at Philadelphia's Center for Fetal Research could significantly improve the outcome of premature births.

Babies born during this span often suffer permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy and lung disease, but CHOP's artificial womb could help parents and doctors avoid that outcome.

The idea of treating premies in fluid-filled incubators may sound unusual, but physiologically it makes sense, said Dr Catherine Spong, a foetal medicine specialist at the National Institutes of Health.

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"This is real tomorrow's world stuff", University of College London neonatal medicine professor Neil Marlow, who wasn't involved in the study, told The Guardian. Before birth, amniotic fluid flows into their lungs, bringing growth factors crucial for proper lung development.

Nearly 30,000 babies a year are delivered in American hospitals at age 26 weeks or younger, more than 10 weeks ahead of the normal gestation period. After four weeks, they were put onto a regular ventilator, where researchers observed almost ideal health conditions.

The device has only been tested on fetal lambs, and it proved to be effective for the animals. But years of trial-and-error and design tweaks have evolved to the current system, which is a sterile, temperature-controlled plastic bag filled with amniotic fluid created in the lab. It's now an electrolyte solution; he's working to add other factors to make it more like real amniotic fluid.

Doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have developed a new artificial womb that could benefit the tens of thousands of critically preterm (younger than 26 weeks) births in the United States each year. He is shown near giant tanks holding a liquid created to simulate amniotic fluid.

The umbilical cord is attached via tubes to a machine outside the bag, which removes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen to blood passing through it. The lambs' hearts circulated the blood, and there was no need for another pump.

"Most of what know about human fetal development is from the lamb". After 28 days, their lungs had matured and they were then released in normal environment so that they could breathe, which happened as expected. The oldest lamb raised in the Biobag is now over a year old and appears healthy.

The study of the artificial womb has been reported to work on several animals.

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