Researchers have successfully tested the artificial womb on a fetal lamb
Scientists have created an artificial womb that could ultimately give babies born prematurely a few more weeks in a uterus-like environment — increasing their chance of survival.
Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have successfully kept a fetal lamb in the watery-incubation for weeks, where the animal grew wool, opened its eyes and became more active, according to Nature Communications.
“It’s hard to describe actually how uniquely awe-inspiring it is to see,” CHOP research fellow Dr. Emily Partridge told the Associated Press.
“We start with a tiny fetus that is pretty inert and spends most of its time sleeping. Over four weeks we see that fetus open its eyes, grow wool, breathe, swim.”
Footage of the structure showed the young lamb wiggling in the clear device.
Premature babies, weighing as little as a pound, are usually placed inside incubators and hooked up to ventilators after birth, the AP reports. But in the new efforts, CHOP researchers have decided to treat the infants more like fetuses than newborns.
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“This unique womb-like, fluid environment could bridge the critical time from mother’s womb to outside world and reduce mortality and disability for extremely premature infants,” officials said in a statement on the CHOP website.
The invention could be a great stride in the effort to increase the survival of babies born prematurely.
An estimated 15 million infants a year are born prematurely and preterm birth complications were responsible for nearly 1 million deaths in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.