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'Plastic bag' artificial womb could save premature babies


USA

'Plastic bag' artificial womb could save premature babies

Scientists in the United States have developed a bio bag filled with fluid that mimics the environment of the womb and the functions of the placenta – and it has kept preterm lambs alive and growing.

The scientists made amniotic fluid in their lab and got it to flow in and out of the bag. 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.

At that age, a human baby weighs little more than 500 grams, its lungs are not able to cope with air and its chances of survival are low. Death rates are up to 70 percent and those who do survive face life-long disability.

“These infants have an urgent need for a bridge between the mother’s womb and the outside world,” said Alan Flake, a specialist surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who led the development of the new device.

His team ultimately hopes to develop an extra-uterine system where extremely premature babies can be suspended in fluid-filled chambers for a vital few weeks to bring them over the 28-week threshold, when their life chances are dramatically improved.

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