Researchers finally Found a Way to Avoid Future Premature Infant Deaths through the Use of Artificial Womb

Researchers finally Found a Way to Avoid Future Premature Infant Deaths through the Use of Artificial Womb

One of the main causes of infant deaths is their premature state. According to World Health Organization, the rate of preterm birth ranges from 5% to 18% across the 184 countries.

Credits: Willem Velthoven

When an infant is born premature, there is a high chance of having complications and low rate of survival – which are the leading reasons for an estimation of 15 million children deaths every year. Indeed, such incident is unwanted as it would break the parents’ hearts whenever a baby dies at early age because of preterm birth. It might even be the cause of depression for a mother who had just given birth to her child.

These infants have an urgent need for a bridge between the mother’s womb and the outside world,” says Alan Flake, senior researcher for the study and a foetal surgeon at the CHOP. “If we can develop an extra-uterine system to support growth and organ maturation for only a few weeks, we can dramatically improve outcomes for extremely premature babies.

For this reason, the researchers conducted a thorough study to avoid infant deaths in the future. Fortunately, they were able to gather helpful information which led them to being able to put their hypothesis into trial.

What they had developed is an artificial womb. It is a sealed and sterile bag, filled with electrolyte solution which is a good substitute for the amniotic fluid found in the human uterus. The researchers had first tried it on eight which are on their 105 to 120 days gestation, equivalent of 23 to 24 weeks old in humans and placed them inside the artificial womb.

Credits: Nature Communications

The animal’s heart pumped blood on its own through the umbilical cord into a gas exchange machine outside the bag. Researchers are genuinely pleased with the results of their trial as the lambs were able to fully develop within the whole four weeks that they were inside the artificial womb. As a matter of fact, they were able to grow wool, open their eyes, swallow and wiggle inside the bag.

We’ve been extremely successful in replacing the conditions in the womb in our lamb model,” said Flake to Rob Stein at NPR. “They’ve had normal growth. They’ve had normal lung maturation. They’ve had normal brain maturation. They’ve had normal development in every way that we can measure it.”

As Olga Khazan explains for The Atlantic: “Artificial uteruses have been tried – and failed – before. A 1996 New York Times Magazine story declared “the artificial womb exists” and described a Tokyo lab in which baby goats floated in a heated, fake amniotic suspension. But, alas, it all ended in technical issues and circulatory failures.”

However, the development isn’t ready to be tested for humans as of the moment. Lambs have different body structure than humans, which makes it uncertain if it will work the same way for babies. Hence, the researchers will have to study and analyze specific aspects to know if this would be a success.

As of now, it is wonderful to know that growing premature infants is indeed possible in the future. For the mean time, mothers should be extra careful and take caution on what she does or eats to ensure her child’s health and development.

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Reese Barcelon
Reese Barcelon 160 posts

Reese was an online novelist way back 2011. She began her voyage with a pen and paper in hand, which advanced into a laptop after some time. Living in a fictional world with the books she read and dramas she watched gave her solace and became her happy pill.