Hope for preemies as artificial womb helps tiny lambs grow

27 April, 2017, 02:01 | Author: Lorraine Moran

"This could establish a new standard of care for this subset of extremely premature infants", Flake said in a statement.

However, all of this is about to change as a team of scientists from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have created history by developing a unique womb-like device that could potentially change the face of neo-natal care in the world.

"Among those that survive, the challenges are things we all take for granted, like walking, talking, seeing, hearing", Kevin added.

"If you can just use this device as a bridge for the fetus then you can have a dramatic impact on the outcomes of extremely premature infants", Flake says.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia aims to give the tiniest preemies a few more weeks cocooned in a womb-like environment so their lungs have more time to develop. Ventilators can cause lungs to develop abnormally, or even cause injuries that lead to lifelong conditions.

The problem with this set-up, though, is they aren't ready for gestation to end. They have been kept in these wombs for an average of 4 weeks.

The team chose to focus on a new solution.

In addition, amniotic fluid, produced in the laboratory, flows into and out of the bag.

Dr Alan Flake, of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said: "Our system could prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants". They say the device could transform care for extremely premature babies - born at between 23 and 26 weeks of gestation - and significantly improve their chances of survival.

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In animal testing, fetal lambs grew for up to four weeks inside a bag filled with a substitute for amniotic fluid, while the heart pumped blood into a machine attached to the umbilical cord that supplied oxygen like a placenta normally would.

A few were bottle-fed and "appear to have normal development in all respects", said Flake.

Previously, researchers have investigated versions of an artificial placenta in animal models, but pumpless systems have achieved a maximum duration of 60 hours, and the animals have sustained brain damage. Two tubes are connected to the baby via its umbilical cord.

The authors also stated that the technology could be extended to other therapeutic applications such as treatment of fetal growth retardation related to placental insufficiency.

Demme is survived by second wife Joanne Howard and their three children: Ramona, Brooklyn and Jos, Variety reported. The device is powered by baby's heartbeat.

According to Flake, his research team has already been in contact with the United States food and Drug Administration and trials of the device could start sometime in the next three to five years. In those temperature-controlled bags, the lambs most certainly did grow.

The team hopes to soon begin testing on humans.

Flake told reporters that his team is now working with the US Food and Drug Administration to design a preclinical study to further evaluate the safety and efficacy of the system.

"It has improved the survival of premature babies worldwide, and made a huge impact on obstetric and neonatal practice", he said, but added that it "took well over 20 years to get into clinical practice". And the project started with materials from Home Depot, plumbing stores, and e-Bay.

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