Artificial womb raises hope for premature babies
By Chioma Obinna
Succour came last week for premature babies as scientists successfully used an artificial womb to incubate healthy baby lambs for a period of one week.
The researchers also hoped that the technology would one day be able to do the same for extremely premature babies.
Findings published last week in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, have shown that preterm lambs were successfully maintained in a healthy, infection-free condition with significant growth, for a period of one week using ex-vivo uterine environment (EVE) therapy.
The University of Western Australia, and Tohoku University Hospital, Japan, has sought to develop an effective treatment strategy for extremely preterm infants born at the border of viability (22-23 weeks).
Chief Investigator, Associate Professor Matt Kemp, said that with further development, EVE therapy could prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants by potentially offering a medical technology that does not currently exist.
He said: “At this gestational age the lungs are often too structurally and functionally under-developed for the baby to breathe easily.”
Kemp further said: “By providing an alternative means of gas exchange for the foetus, we hoped to spare the extremely preterm cardiopul-monary system from ventilation-derived injury, and save the lives of those babies whose lungs are too immature to breathe properly.
“The end goal is to provide preterm babies the chance to better develop their lungs and other important organs before being brought into the world.”
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