Thursday, 19 April, 2018

Artificial Womb Could Give Premature Babies Extra Time To Develop

Melissa Porter | 30 April, 2017, 18:20

Helping premature babies to survive is a growing challenge because advances mean more premature babies are surviving birth, but there still is the challenge of helping them survive and preventing illness, or morbidity. This prompted the team to create a prototype that could fit human preterm babies. It's filled with amniotic fluid, and connected to a flow of oxygenated blood, just like the umbilical cord would ordinarily provide. Outside the bag is a machine that is attached to the umbilical cord.

It works by mimicking the prenatal fluid-filled environment or uterus to give newborns a precious few weeks to develop their lungs and other organs.

"We start with a tiny fetus that is pretty inert and spends most of its time sleeping".

Animals "breathed" and swallowed normally, opened their eyes, grew wool and developed properly functioning nerves and organs, said the researchers writing in the journal Nature Communications. "It's hard to describe actually how uniquely awe-inspiring it is to see".

Flake and his fellow researchers at CHOP are now working with the FDA on preliminary studies to clear the way for the first clinical trial of the device in human babies, NewsWorks.org reports.

"These infants have an urgent need for a bridge between the mother's womb and the outside world", Dr. Alan W. Flake, a fetal surgeon and director of the Center for Fetal Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) said in a statement released yesterday. It can definitely save severely premature babies to develop into normal ones. Death rates are up to 70 percent and those who do survive face life-long disability. In fact, it is a bag of amniotic fluid.

The baby is able to digest nutrients from the laboratory-made fluid. The lambs' hearts circulated the blood, and there was no need for another pump. The extremely premature lambs were at the same developmental stage as a human baby born at 23 weeks. They all appeared to grow normally, without any significant changes in their blood pressure and other important health measures. The device acts as an artificial womb, and a "biobag" mimics the natural uterus that allows the development of a fetus.

Speaking with reporters Monday, the Philadelphia researchers emphasized they don't intend to expand the bounds of life before the 23rd gestational week because before that point, fetuses are too fragile even for the artificial wombs, The Atlantic reports.

Experts from the United States have been successful in testing a support mechanism on lambs that facilitated growth and survival in them.