Researchers Create Artificial Womb

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Dr. Alan Flake a fetal surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who is leading the research to develop a fluid-filled

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Dr. Alan Flake a fetal surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who is leading the research to develop a fluid-filled

The artificial womb is made up of a sterile bag that is filled with an electrolyte solution, which functions as amniotic fluid found in the protective walls of the uterus to develop them for more four weeks.

The device is a clear plastic bag containing synthetic amniotic fluid.

-Then the researchers attached the umbilical cord to a machine that exchanges carbon dioxide in blood with oxygen, like a placenta normally does.

Researchers have developed an artificial womb that could potentially help premature babies develop their lungs and other organs and reduce the risk of mortality and morbidity.

The details about this artificial womb are described in a paper titled: "An extra-uterine physiologic support system for the extreme premature lamb" in the journal Nature Communications. "Over four weeks we see that fetus open its eyes, grow wool, breathe, swim", explained Dr. Emily Partridge, from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and co-author, according to the Boston Globe.

It could give extremely premature babies a few more vital weeks to develop their lungs and other organs.

"We've been extremely successful in replacing the conditions in the womb in our lamb model", said lead study author Alan Flake, who added the animals exhibited normal growth, brain, and lung development.

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NPR reports that experts are raising ethical concerns about an artificial womb, including whether it would ever be fair to test the technology on humans.

Experts who have carried out the experiment at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia hope that this success may provide a better chance of survival to premature human babies in a few years.

The researchers want the womb to one day be used in neonatal intensive care units as an alternative to ventilation for babies born at 23 weeks gestation onwards.

These findings shine a ray of hope for the 30,000 or so critically preterm babies that get born yearly in the United States. But growing lamb fetuses is just the beginning. But for infants born around 22 or 23 weeks - the earliest a premature child can be expected to survive outside the womb - the new device presents a better solution than the incubators now in use in neonatal wards. The doctors have been working on the artificial womb for years, starting on their own, with their own funds, and using a variety of surplus and cheap materials. Doctors said the lambs, which are now one year old, "appear to have normal development in all respects".

In pre-clinical studies with lambs, researchers were able to create a uterus-like environment which allowed the fetuses to continue to develop.

He acknowledged that parents might question the approach, but notes that the preemies always could be whisked into standard care if they fared poorly in the new system. "Extremely premature" babies are those born during or prior to the 28th week of pregnancy.

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