Latest in Tomorrow

Image credit:

Scientists successfully grew fetal lambs inside 'uterus-like' bags

An artificial womb could transform care for extremely premature infants.
Andrew Dalton, @dolftown
April 25, 2017
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have developed a new artificial womb that could benefit the tens of thousands of critically preterm (younger than 26 weeks) births in the US each year. According to a new paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the research physicians successfully kept fetal lambs alive inside a "uterus-like" plastic sack for up to four weeks -- longer than any similar device before it.

The concept behind the new artificial womb is fairly simple: fetal lambs were placed inside a soft, temperature-controlled plastic bag filled with amniotic fluid to mimic a real uterus and their umbilical cords were hooked up to a blood oxygenating machine. Unlike previous devices, however, the Philadelphia team's artificial womb uses the animal's own heart to circulate blood, rather than mechanical pumps which can hurt the animal and lead to development problems or lung issues later on.

As Alan Flake, the director of the hospital's Children's Institute for Surgical Science, told reporters, the device won't replace a real, living uterus just yet because it can't replicate the earliest stages of development. But for infants born around 22 or 23 weeks -- the earliest a premature child can be expected to survive outside the womb -- the new device presents a better solution than the incubators currently in use in neonatal wards. At the start of the test, the fetal lamb test subjects were roughly the same gestational age as a critically premature human fetus. After four weeks, however, eight lambs were "born" out of the sacks with normal, healthy development and lung function on par with a mature infant.

According to Flake, his research team has already been in contact with the US food and Drug Administration and trials of the device could start sometime in the next three to five years. The device itself, however, will likely get a less alarming and more "parent-friendly" redesign in the process, Flake said.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

MIT tests autonomous 'Roboat' that can carry two passengers

MIT tests autonomous 'Roboat' that can carry two passengers

View
Researchers 3D-printed a cell-sized tugboat

Researchers 3D-printed a cell-sized tugboat

View
Microsoft's 'Mandalorian' Xbox controller will set you back $160

Microsoft's 'Mandalorian' Xbox controller will set you back $160

View
Samsung, Stanford make a 10,000PPI display that could lead to 'flawless' VR

Samsung, Stanford make a 10,000PPI display that could lead to 'flawless' VR

View
NASA will try to stow away its leaking asteroid sample tomorrow

NASA will try to stow away its leaking asteroid sample tomorrow

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr