Scientists created a functioning artificial womb, that could transform care for extremely premature infants.
Animals set, by Philadelphia scientists, survival record inside artificial womb.
Fetal lambs lived for weeks in a fluid-filled bag. Tests to help premature babies could begin in three years.
Above, a fetal lamb kept alive inside an artificial womb. Credit MIT
Physicians at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia placed fetal lambs into the transparent bags and connected their umbilical cords to a machine that oxygenated their blood. The lambs own hearts provided the pumping power.
Eight lambs survived for as long as four weeks inside the devices. The gestational age of the animals was equivalent to a human fetus of 22 or 23 weeks, about the earliest a human baby can be born and expected to survive outside the womb. A full-term baby is born at 40 weeks.
A new device may transform care for extremely premature infants: After birth, they would be immersed in lab-made amniotic fluid — and kept underwater for weeks.
When a premature baby is born three or even four months early, it’s immediately clear that they’re not ready to be here yet. Born at a critically low birth weight, the first challenge these very preterm babies face is surviving. Those that do survive face very serious challenges as they grow and develop. Many infants born preterm have severe, long-lasting medical complications or health problems. These premature infants present a real clinical challenge. New research hopes to help these babies who struggle to survive.