Hope for preemies as artificial womb helps tiny lambs grow

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Premature infants weighing as little as a pound are hooked to ventilators and other machines inside incubators, so their lungs can more fully develop.

The Philadelphia scientific community welcomed the advance in neonatal care this invention is meant to bring, and recognized the artificial womb could help researchers learn more about normal fetal development.

Around 30,000 babies are born prematurely in the United States each year and many suffer for the rest of their lives as a result. There are two tubes, one sucking blood out of the infant then running it through an oxygenator and another feeding the blood back into the body.

Flake says the group hopes to test the device on very premature human babies within three to five years.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is aiming for a gentler solution. "It's hard to describe actually how uniquely awe-inspiring it is to see".

The artificial womb study has been fast tracked by the US Food and Drug Administration and the researchers are now undertaking further animal trials, which they hope to complete within two years, "then move on to first in human use within three to four years", Dr Davey said.

"We're trying to extend normal gestation, " said Dr Alan Flake, a foetal surgeon at CHOP who is leading the project and considers it a temporary bridge between the mother's womb and the outside world.

Critically pre-term babies born around 22 to 23 weeks weigh less than 600gm and have a 30 to 50 percent survival rate. "This could establish a new standard of care for this subset of extremely premature infants". In fact, it is a bag of amniotic fluid.

"If our system is as successful as we think it can be, ultimately the majority of pregnancies predicted at-risk for extreme prematurity would be delivered onto a system that keeps them immersed, rather than being delivered onto a ventilator", he said. Almost 90 percent of those who survive face severe health problems, such as chronic lung disease and complications arising from poor organ development.

However, as Davey noted, the research in the area of artificial wombs registered a slow progression, and the environment's life-preserving capabilities were highly limited.

An artificial womb kept premature lambs alive for weeks, and this approach might one day improve premature human babies' chances of survival, according to a new study.

The team noted that they can now make more than 300 gallons of the artificial amniotic fluid per day, which is mostly made up of water and several different salts. They've recently demonstrated a womb-like environment filled with a substance that mimics the prenatal fluid.

-The lamb's heart circulates the blood, without the need for any other pump. While tests have not started on humans as of yet, Mychaliska has tested the technology on prematurely born lambs.

Electronic monitors were used to measure vital signs as well as blood flow and other vital functions of the lambs.

A developing lamb in an external womb. If they are out of the womb, a breath of air stunts lung development. The fetal lambs breathed amniotic fluid as they normally do in the womb in a temperature-controlled, near sterile environment that is insulated from variations in temperature, pressure, light and hazardous infections.