Scientists put a baby lamb inside artificial womb for weeks, and the results could revolutionize the way we deal with premature birth.
Doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, have given “birth” to healthy baby lambs, each of which were grown inside an artificial womb for four weeks.
The uterus-like plastic sack that were used could possibly be a revolutionary technological leap towards how we caring for premature infants.
— Antonio Regalado (@antonioregalado) April 25, 2017
The doctors placed right lambs inside the temperature-controlled, sterile plastic bags filled with amniotic fluid for as long as four weeks. The lambs’ age was the equivalent to that of a 22 to 23-week-old human fetus, which is believed to be the earliest a human baby can survive outside of the womb. The normal age at which a fetus is born is 40 weeks.
While inside the artificial womb, each lamb was connected to a machine that oxygenated their blood via the umbilical cord, while their own hearts provided pumping power.
Once they were removed from the sacs, technically “born”, the newborn lambs were able to move, open their eyes and swallow normally.
However, director of the Philadelphia hospital’s Children’s Institute for Surgical Science Alan Flake told reporters during a conference call that the technology is not capable of incubating a human baby for a full nine months, the time it takes a baby to fully develop from conception to birth.
He added that he would be “very concerned” if doctors tried to rescue babies born before their 22nd week of development.
While premature babies are currently placed inside incubators that keeps them warm and provide protection from germs, this artificial womb method could help lower the risk of death and developmental issues since it mimics a mother’s uterus.
Flake believes that the device could be tested with human babies in three to five years, but at the moment, there’s still a lot of research to be done.