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Scientists Develop Artificial Womb For Premature Babies
September 20 2017, 08:09 | Rex Rios
The research team estimates the device could save tens of thousands of lives each year and improve the quality of life for many premature infants.
The lambs remained in the "womb" for up to a month. When babies are outside of their mothers' bodies too early, the ones who survive need medication, IVs and ventilation as many of their major organs are not fully developed.
So far the technology has only been tested on premature lambs, not human babies, so you won't find it at any hospitals just yet.
At present, doctors use incubators and ventilators to help babies stay alive and breathe but this can cause damage to the development of their lungs.
Every year, 30,000 babies born in the United States are extremely premature - most are unable to breath on their own.
A bag is filled with lab made amniotic fluid. 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.
It's not a sci-fi movie - a premature lamb fitted with tubes and fluids is growing inside a plastic bag.
"We start with a tiny fetus that is pretty inert and spends most of its time sleeping". "It's hard to describe actually how uniquely awe-inspiring it is to see". The team of physicians is already in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and clinical trials are slated to begin in the next 3 to 5 years.
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. If successful, not only will it save the lives of thousands of babies, it would also help cut down on the estimated $43 billion annual medical costs of prematurity in the U.S.
Doctors have tried to mimic the complex environment in a mother's womb, but to no avail.
Scientists behind the artificial womb admit the device raises ethical issues, but say these must be balanced against the risk of death and severe disabilities that often afflict premature babies.
But scientists have developed a new system that could potentially help premature babies born as early as 23 or 24 weeks: an artificial womb created to mimic the conditions inside a mother's uterus. Before birth, amniotic fluid flows into their lungs, bringing growth factors crucial for proper lung development.
Instead, the baby's heart pumps blood via the umbilical cord into the system's low-resistance external oxygenator that substitutes for the mother's placenta in exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide.
The researchers tested five lambs whose biological age was equivalent to 23-week human premies, and three others a bit older.