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Artificial Womb to Incubate Premature Babies | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An artist impression shows a lamb inside a fluid-filled womb-like bag known as an extra-uterine support device developed by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. CREDIT: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia handout via REUTERS

London- Scientists in the United States have developed a fluid-filled womb-like bag known as an extra-uterine support device that could transform care for extremely premature babies, significantly improving chances of survival.

In studies conducted on lambs, the researchers were able to create a womb-like environment that secures the functions of the placenta, giving premature offspring a crucial opportunity to develop their lungs and other organs.

The researchers said that round 30,000 babies in the United States alone are born critically early, at between 23 and 26 weeks of gestation. At that age, a 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.

According to Reuters, Alan Flake, a specialist surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who led the development of the new device, said that his team’s goal was 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, and improve their life chances.

It could take up to another 10 years, but by then he hopes to have a licensed device in which babies born very prematurely are given the chance to develop in fluid-filled chambers, rather than lying in incubators with artificial respiratory systems.