Just when we thought we’d seen it all, researchers created a device that mimics a pregnant mammal’s womb! And while it so far has been working on baby lambs, scientists hope to soon use the machine on humans. It’ll save the lives of babies born 22-24 weeks into term, a time when now, only half of them survive.
Talk about modern medical marvels! A groundbreaking study came out on Apr. 25, announcing scientists have created an “artificial womb” in the hopes of someday using the device to save babies born extremely prematurely. Pretty amazing, right? Here’s what we know about the incredible invention:
A new therapy using an artificial womb could save premature babies. pic.twitter.com/rwlAcBl1L7
— AJ+ (@ajplus) April 26, 2017
1. The device has only been used on fetal lambs.
So far so good though, as the the eight animals involved in the experiment have appeared to develop successfully for about one month. “We’ve been extremely successful in replacing the conditions in the womb in our lamb model,” said Alan Flake, who’s a fetal surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who led the study published in the journal Nature Communications. “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.”
2. It operates just like a real womb does.
Here’s how it works, the premature baby is put inside a clear plastic bag that’s filled with synthetic amniotic fluid. And instead of a placenta, the fetus’ umbilical cord is hooked up to a machine that pumps oxygen. “The whole idea is to support normal development; to re-create everything that the mother does in every way that we can to support normal fetal development and maturation,” Alan explained.
3. Hopefully, the scientists can begin testing the device on human babies in just a few years.
The hope is to be able to test the device on very premature human babies within just three to five years! “What we tried to do is develop a system that mimics the environment of the womb as closely as possible,” Alan said. “It’s basically an artificial womb.”
4. If it works, tens of thousands of very premature babies could potentially be saved.
After all, each year in the U.S. about 30,000 babies are born before gestating for 26 weeks. Those babies are considered “critically preterm,” which means they automatically face vast and serious health problems — half don’t even survive. Those who do live, face a 90 percent risk of lasting health problems, according to Kevin Dysart, a neonatologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“Among those that survive, the challenges are things we all take for granted, like walking, talking, seeing, hearing,” Kevin added. But these scary statistics could change in the very near future with this amazing new device.
5. This device is being called a game-changing “miracle.”
Jay Greenspan, a pediatrician at Thomas Jefferson University, even called the invention a “technological miracle” that’s “a huge step to try to do something that we’ve been trying to do for many years.” SO amazing!
Tell us, HollywoodLifers — are you amazed by this new device? Did you ever think something like this was even possible?