Researchers design a functioning artificial womb

Experts who have carried out the experiment at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia hope that this success may provide a better chance of survival to premature human babies in a few years. The main reason behind creating of artifical womb is that premature infants weighing as little as half a kilogram are hooked to ventilators and other machines inside incubators.

The contraption which amounts to a prenatal fluid-filled plastic bag with an attached mechanical placenta could give them the precious extra few weeks they need. Scientists first developed a womb-like bag known as extra-uterine support device and tested its efficacy on preterm lamb.

According to Flake, his research team has already been in contact with the USA food and Drug Administration and trials of the device could start sometime in the next three to five years.

"This system is potentially far superior to what hospitals can now do for a 23-week-old baby born at the cusp of viability", Flake said. When premature babies are born at 23 weeks, their survival rate is just 15 per cent. There have been a lot of babies born prematurely that do not make it because of poor development. Complications along the way included issues with sepsis, lambs not surviving delivery and poor oxygenation.

The device is simpler than previous attempts at creating an artificial womb, which haven't yet panned out.

Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have been working on an artificial womb called the "BioBag", which, admittedly, is a awful name for a potentially unbelievable product.

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Alan Flake, lead author of the study and fetal surgeon at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said that they are trying to extend the process to a normal gestation, as he considers it as a temporary bridge between the maternal womb and the outside world.

-The lamb's heart circulates the blood, without the need for any other pump.

Placing the lambs in a bag to mimic the uterus, they not only survived for four weeks, but showed significant development. Knowing this, we do not know any long term effects of being grown in an artificial womb but no doubt this will be something the researches will be taking into consideration.

Dr Flake said as one of the survivors reached a year old: "They appear to have normal development in all respects". Also, although they technically work, they are at a stage where they are still very immature.

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, reports. This move is to meet the unmet needs of extreme prematurity but it will take time.

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