Artificial womb successful in animal trials

Researchers are creating an artificial womb to improve care for extremely premature babies — and remarkable animal testing suggests it closely mimics the real thing…

Lambs born at the equivalent of 23 weeks in a human pregnancy were kept alive and appeared to develop normally while floating inside the transparent, womb-like vessel for four weeks after birth. Doctors said that the pioneering approach could radically improve outcomes for babies born so early that they cannot breathe, feed or fight infection without medical help…

In the biobag, the lambs were immersed in a substitute amniotic fluid containing nutrients and chemicals designed to stimulate growth. While floating inside the transparent plastic vessel – in some cases for four weeks – the lambs appeared to develop normally, transforming from bald, pink foetuses into fleecy, white newborns…

The study didn’t address long-term development. Most of the lambs were euthanized for further study that found normal organ development for their gestational age. One was bottle-weaned and is now more than a year old, apparently healthy and living on a farm in Pennsylvania…

The womb-like system isn’t intended to support preemies any younger than today’s limits of viability — not artificially growing embryos.  In essence, it’s to make it so babies who shouldn’t quite be “here” yet don’t have to be. In a video that accompanied the release of the study, Partridge described being struck by the sight of the zipped-up lamb fetuses, “breathing, swallowing, swimming, dreaming”—all with “complete detachment from the placenta and from mom.”

Video Credit: CTV News


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