An Artificial Womb Has Successfully Grown A Lamb For Four Weeks

However, most premature babies that survive develop chronic lung disease or other complications of organ immaturity, especially if they were born before 28 weeks.

The researchers created a fluid-filled container simulating the amniotic fluid in mom's uterus, and attached a mechanical placenta that keeps blood oxygenated.

This would be a tremendous achievement, he added, considering that - as the authors wrote in their paper's abstract - "fetal lambs that are developmentally equivalent to the extreme premature human infant can be physiologically supported in this extra-uterine device for up to four weeks".

Human testing still is three to five years away, although the team already is in discussions with the Food and Drug Administration.

The artificial womb environment reported in the journal Nature Communications is the result of almost four years of research and just as many prototypes.

An illustration of a fetal lamb inside the "artificial womb" device, which mimics the conditions inside a pregnant animal. They are now using the bag on human-sized lambs and tracking the progress of those that survived after being taken off the ventilator, "I think it's realistic to think about three years for first-in-human trials", Flake said.

The system is connected to a circuit that supports oxygen flow via the umbilical cord, allowing the heart to pump blood into a machine outside the artificial womb created to substitute the placenta.




Each team points out the benefits of its device-one avoids pumps that can strain a tiny heart, the other makes it easier to access the infant if something goes wrong-but neither has yet been tested on humans. The subjects also had normal lung and brain maturation, according to NPR.

The external or artificial womb - called a Biobag by developers - is meant to give infants born months too early a more natural, uterus-like environment to continue developing in. At the start of the test, the fetal lamb test subjects were roughly the same gestational age as a critically premature human fetus. "I think it's just an fantastic thing to sit there and watch the fetus on this support acting like it normally acts in the womb". They all appeared to grow normally, without any significant changes in their blood pressure and other important health measures.

Modern neonatal care practices have pushed the overall survival of premature infants to 22 or 23 weeks of gestation where the infants weight a little more than 1.5 pounds and has a 30-to-50 percent chance of survival. One has been retired to a farm in rural Pennsylvania.

The story Researchers ideal an artificial womb that works as well as ewe do first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

The lambs showed normal breathing and swallowing behaviours, were able to open their eyes, grew wool, were active and showed normal growth and neurological function as well as organ development. Inside of the womb, they placed a premature lamb fetus.

Flake and his team admit more testing will need to be done before commencing with human trials.

"It is a fluidic incubator so the infant is re-immersed in an artificial amniotic fluid, and the infant will survive inside the biobag with the oxygenator on the outside for a period of up to three or four weeks", said Marcus Davey, CHOP researcher.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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