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The Artificial Womb that could revolutionize care for Premature Babies

by Milicent Atieno

When you get your bundle of joy, and everything is well; the baby’s weight is within the right margin, they are breathing, screaming, sucking, and shitting right. You thank God, for your blessings.

A hospital can be such a cruel place. The mother lying in the next bed could be having her world torn to pieces, yet on the next bed, the mother lying there is the happiest woman on Earth. The cruel some part is just how can so much joy and sadness exist within such a short distance of each other?

One mother can’t help it but shine with happiness as they hold their newborn baby, while another mother is worried sick about their newborn in the nursery room, and another mother has to go home empty-handed. That could be due to a lot of things, but today I am talking about premature that have to placed inside incubators and ventilators.

Alright, the technology behind incubators and ventilators has come a long way over the years. But they are still a far cry from the comforts of the confines of a mother’s womb. A team of researchers has come up with a new artificial womb that tries to mimic the environment within a mother’s womb, and they claim the technology is unrivaled.

Led by Alan Flake from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the research team has demonstrated the artificial womb can support extremely premature lambs; recreate the conditions fetus has within the natural womb.

The extremely premature lambs were placed inside a fluid-filled device, and they survived for four weeks. The subsequent tests showed the lambs had healthy brain, lungs, and other organs development.

The research team says it may take another decade before their technology could be tried on human fetus, but they are impressed by its results so far. More technical information on this research team’s study and report can be found in Nature Communications.

How the Artificial Womb works

The research team placed the premature fetal lambs in a semi-closed, fluid-filled artificial environment made up of a polyethylene ‘Biobag.’ The system uses the infant’s umbilical cord to create an oxygen circuit. Lambs were the preferred specimen; given fetus lambs and human fetus develop lungs in relatively the same way.artificial womb

The lamb grew inside the plastic bags as they normally would in the natural womb. The temperature was controlled, environment kept near-sterile, they breathed amniotic fluid, and their hearts pumped blood through the umbilical cord and into a gas exchange system outside the Biobag.artificial womb

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