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Scientists create artificial womb that could help save premature babies

Scientists create artificial womb that could help save premature babies

The womb that looks like a plastic zip-lock bag is actually a fluid-filled bag furnished with nutrient-rich blood supply, a protective sac of amniotic fluid and everything else required for a fetus to grow and mature.

YOUTUBE, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIAFetal lambs that are developmentally similar to human infants born extremely prematurely (as early as at 23 weeks of gestation) can survive and continue to develop in an artificial womb for up to four weeks, researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute reported in Nature Communications today (April 25).

At that age, a human baby weighs little more than 500 grams, its lungs are not able to cope with air and its chances of survival are low.

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.

"Our system could prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants by potentially offering a medical technology that does not now exist", said the study's lead author Dr Alan Flake.

A stunning new development could help extremely premature babies survive - it's an artificial womb created to give preemies a few extra weeks to develop.

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However, all of this is about to change as a team of scientists from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have created history by developing a unique womb-like device that could potentially change the face of neo-natal care in the world. After several iterations, the team now thinks it has perfected the system and, after a few more years of animal testing, they want to try to save some human infants.

The sealed bag which is made of polythene, mimics the environment of a natural womb.

In the study, researchers used eight lamb fetuses that were 105 to 115 days old-a level of development comparable to a 23-week-old human fetus. The machine is outside the bag and pumps the needed nutrition and oxygen into the fetus and, at the same time, removes the carbon dioxide inside the bag.

Dr Flake said as one of the survivors reached a year old: "They appear to have normal development in all respects". Currently, it's an electrolyte solution, but Davey is working to add other components to the liquid to make it more like real amniotic fluid.

Most of the lambs were euthanized before they reached full gestations for further study, but one was left to bottle wean and is now a healthy grown sheep.

But the artificial womb could help revolutionize the process and extend human viability for babies that are not able to remain inside a human womb for whatever reason. In the span of four weeks, doctors say the lambs' brains and lungs grew.

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