Watch: Scientists successfully grow premature lamb in an artificial womb

This is absolutely amazing!

Premature birth is one of the leading cause of neo-natal mortality across the globe. And the efforts to extend the gestation period have achieved limited success. The infants that are born before they reach 37 weeks of pregnancy require intensive support as their organs including brain, lungs, the heart continues to develop outside their mother’s womb. Despite the advanced health care facilities available in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), a large number of these infants suffer from a number of health problems, wherein the parents have to decide between opting for extreme health care measures to keep these infants alive and a less painful care.

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.

Biobag is a device that gives the infant a uterus-like environment to continue developing in. The device consists of three essential components: a polyethylene film that acts like the womb protecting the infant from the outside environment; an electrolyte solution which is similar to the amniotic fluid in the womb; and a system to circulate blood and supply oxygen.

To circulate blood and oxygen, the researchers created a pumpless circulatory system that was connected to the umbilical blood vessels of the infant. A system was then created wherein the fluid in the sac flowed in and out just like it would happen in a uterus, supplying nutrients and removing “the combination of the pumpless oxygenator circuit, the closed fluid circuit and Biobag and umbilical cord access constitute our device,” the wrote in the paper that was published in the journal Nature.

The team kept the lamb in the artificial lung for 106 −113 days, which is the equivalent of the 23–24-week gestation premature human infant and found that the lamb were relatively healthy. Though the parameters aren’t same for the lamb and human, the success of their method for lambs presents a ray of hope for humans.