The development of an artificial uterus could completely change the chances of survival of premature babies. That is what a group of Dutch scientists wants to reach in the coming years.
The idea comes from a team of the Technical University of Eindhoven and has drawn so much attention, that the research has already received an investment of 2.9 million euros.
Until now, one of the main problems with premature babies was obviously the poor preparation of their bodies for the outside world. For example, your lungs and intestines have not matured enough for these conditions. In fact, according to data from Tommy’s organization, babies born before 22 weeks of gestation usually have no chance of survival. This increases to 10% at 22 weeks, and 60% two weeks later.
At least one million babies die each year in the world because they are premature. Therefore, the motivation of scientists is to counteract this figure.
The idea is to create an artificial uterus capable of copying the conditions of pregnancy. This is putting the newborn in a container full of fluids. In addition, it is assumed that it will be connected by an artificial umbilical cord that passes nutrients and oxygen. It would practically be like lengthening the pregnancy, but outside the mother’s body.
They have already done it on animals
The idea attracts a lot of attention, especially since it has worked before. However, it has been tested only on animals.
That was the case of a series of experiments carried out in 2017. They put lamb fetuses in “biobags” that allowed them to survive. These were in development stages equivalent to 23 weeks of human gestation. During the time they were inside, they could continue to develop and even develop hair.
No doubt thinking about human tests will be a controversial event in the scientific community. However, in the first instance, they will use 3D-printed human replicas.
According to Guid Oei, one of the experts responsible for the investigation, the artificial uterus will recreate very well the conditions suitable for the development of a baby. “In this environment, they simply feel, see, smell and hear the same sounds as when they are in the mother’s womb,” he concludes.
Source: The Guardian