"Artificial womb" could help preemies avoid deaths and disabilities

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 06:17PM
"Artificial womb" could help preemies avoid deaths and disabilities. Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on April 25.

UNIVERSITY CITY - A team at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has created a device that could give extremely premature babies a better shot at survival.

And the project started with materials from Home Depot, plumbing stores, and e-Bay.

The womb-like device uses a temperature-controlled sac filled with synthetic amniotic fluid.

In lab tests, fetal lambs continued to breathe the fluid, while a machine put oxygen into the blood through the umbilical cord.

Researchers were able to keep the lambs thriving and developing up to 4 weeks.

Doctors say there's a desperate need for a bridge between the womb and the outside world.

Right now, being born too early is the leading cause of infant mortality.

"The frequency of prematurity has increased significantly in the last 2 or 3 decades. So the problem isn't going away," says Dr. Alan Flake.

The researchers say the system wouldn't change the limits of when a fetus can survive.

But it could reduce a host of complications, such as cerebral palsy.

The doctors have been working on the artificial womb for years, starting on their own, with their own funds, and using a variety of surplus and inexpensive materials.

Once they built a prototype for proof-of-concept, they were able to get research funding.

The team is talking to the F-D-A, in hopes of starting human trials in a year or two.

Read more about the experimental device here.
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