Scientists have developed an artificial womb that has been successfully tested to incubate healthy baby lambs for a week.
The advanced technology may one day be used to save the lives of extremely premature human babies. It has been developed by researchers from the University of Western Australia and Tohoku University Hospital in Japan.
The main aim of the researchers is to develop an effective treatment strategy for extremely preterm infants born at the border of viability (22-23 weeks). The study was published in ‘The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology’.
Details of the study
• The preterm lambs were successfully kept in a healthy, infection-free condition for a period of one week.
• The therapy used to incubate the lamb babies is called ex- vivo uterine environment (EVE) therapy.
• The lambs showed significant growth in the period they were kept inside the artificial womb.
• The equipment involved includes high-tech amniotic fluid bath combined with an artificial placenta.
• With further advancement, EVE therapy could be used to prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants.
According to Matt Kemp, Associate professor at the University of Western Australia, designing treatment strategies for extremely preterm infants is a huge challenge."At this gestational age the lungs are often too structurally and functionally under-developed for the baby to breathe easily," he explained.
Kemp further stated that by providing an alternative means of gas exchange for the foetus they hope to spare the extremely preterm cardiopulmonary system from ventilation-derived injury and save the lives of those babies whose lungs are too immature to breathe properly.
"The end goal is to provide preterm babies the chance to better develop their lungs and other important organs before being brought into the world," he added.
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