BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A new scientific breakthrough offers hope for premature babies and their chances to undergo normal development. Researchers used an artificial womb on premature lamb fetuses which helped them grow. Thus, such a device might increase the survival chances of preemies and help with their development.
Premature babies have lower chances of survival
Premature births represent a critical issue in the United States. Every year, around 30,000 babies are born long ahead the due date. This represents the main cause of death among infants, as those who weigh less than 600 grams have only half the chances of survival.
Premature baby deaths occur at quite a high rate. If this continues over the past few years, we are going to record around 4.4 million deaths by 2030. Even if babies survive a premature birth, most of them experience a lot of health problems, since their organs do not develop properly. Some studies even link premature births to a higher chance of developing mental illnesses later in life.
So far, the only thing doctors can do is put the preemies in incubators and try to help their organs develop. However, such methods are not always the best for such fragile babies. They might expose them to pathogens or be too harsh for some of their organs, such as the lungs.
An artificial womb would prevent developmental issues in preemies
There traditional methods imply intubation and the mechanical ventilation of lungs with gas. This is problematic, since lungs are submerged into a fluid while still in the womb. Thus, methods which use gas to support lung development might irreversibly affect them.
This is why an artificial womb would allow for great progress in the treatment of premature babies. They are no longer in danger of suffering from an impaired development since such a device simulates the conditions present in the womb.
When creating this artificial womb environment, the researchers provided it with oxygen via an umbilical cord. The lambs they used in the experiment had reached the same stage of development as 23- or 24-week old human fetuses. This represents a better solution than the incubation and ventilation technique, as the organs of the lambs developed as if they were still in a natural womb.
Thus, researchers now hope that they could develop a similar mechanism to be used on premature babies. However, there is still much work to do until then, and overwhelming costs to support.
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