At that point in their development, neither lambs nor human babies can survive outside the womb on their own.
In the United States, extreme prematurity is the primary cause of infant morbidity and mortality, as over one-third of all infant deaths are attributed to prematurity. "There are still huge challenges to refine the technique, to make good results more consistent and eventually to compare outcomes with current neonatal intensive care strategies". However, as it mimics the environment of a natural womb, researchers hope the technology could one day be used for human babies.
Credit - The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"They appear to have got lambs through four weeks which is a pretty momentous achievement".
Ultimately, an infant is considered premature when they are born before 37 weeks of development.
"We start with a tiny foetus that is pretty inert and spends most of its time sleeping".
The lambs showed normal breathing and swallowing behaviours, were able to open their eyes, grew wool, were active and showed normal growth and neurological function as well as organ development.
The team is reportedly in discussions with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and predicts babies could be incubated in the system within three years of the first clinical trial, The Guardian reports.
"Our system could prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants by potentially offering a medical technology that does not now exist", Flake said.
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When premature babies are born at 23 weeks, their survival rate is just 15 per cent.
"Our system could prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants by potentially offering a medical technology that does not now exist", Dr.
The machine, described in the journal Nature Communications, consists of a plastic bag which is kept full of electrolyte solution made in a lab to simulate amniotic fluid.
But all "preemie" babies (as they're known), are at risk of health problems during their life.
Max Gomez reports, the process is still highly experimental but has already begun testing with animals. Getting there will involve improving the amniotic fluid substitute, adding foetal urine, nutrients and growth factors to the mix.
By connecting the umbilical cord to a gas exchange that oxygenates the blood, the device function is similar to how a fetus "breathes" in the womb via the umbilical cord.
-The lamb's heart circulates the blood, without the need for any other pump.
The researchers took eight lambs between 105 to 120 days gestation (the physiological equivalent of 23 to 24 weeks in humans) and placed them inside the artificial womb. Electronic monitors outside the device measure vital statistics. However, the researchers are always emphasizing the machine's incapacity to save babies younger than 23 weeks of age. He noted that the lamb being tested with the artificial womb had developed normally. The big question was: Would the lamb fetus survive?