Thanks to the relentless efforts of a team of researchers from Philadelphia, premature-born babies could, one day, have greater chances of survival. The Center for Fetal Research team managed to develop an artificial womb which resembles a plastic bag. The team declared that the makeshift womb was successful in keeping premature lambs alive for more than a month. Human versions of this artificial wombs should become available within the next two years, the Philadelphia team declared.
Artificial Womb Can Improve Infantile Rate of Survival
Dr. Marcus Davey, one of the lead authors of the study, and a prominent figure in the area of Australian fetal research declared that the artificial womb developed at Philadelphia’s Center for Fetal Research could significantly improve the outcome of premature births.
At the moment, Davey pointed out that more than 50 percent of infants born at 24 weeks die as a result of complications. The researcher and his team noted that one of the most common causes of death is related to the newborn’s lung being insufficiently developed. However, the artificial womb prototype can improve the infant’s chances of survival.
From a historical standpoint, it appears that the idea of putting together an artificial environment which closely mimics the womb’s biological parameters is not entirely new, researchers attempting to construct one since the early ‘50s.
However, as Davey noted, the research in the area of artificial wombs registered a slow progression, and the environment’s life-preserving capabilities were highly limited. But, in view of the recent advanced in medical technology, babies born at 24 weeks have a better chance of survival.
How Does The New Artificial Womb Work?
As for the new and low-cost artificial womb, Dr. Davey declared that it could replicate to perfection all the functions of a biological womb. Just as the fetus is surrounded by the amniotic liquid inside the mom’s uterus, the plastic bag-like womb is filled with a liquid which has the same physiological properties as its biological counterpart.
Moreover, the artificial womb is capable of supplying the optimal amount of oxygen, to ensure fetal development. As far as results are concerned, Dr. Davey said that the womb had been tested on two premature born lambs.
The results have been deemed promising – using the plastic enclosures, Davey’s team was able to keep the two lambs alive for more than a month. However, the device still needs improvements before the scientists can start human trials. But Davey is confident that a human version will be made available within the next two years.
Photo courtesy of: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia