It might seem like a concept from a SCI-FI movie, but US researches are working on creating artificial wombs that will hopefully improve medical treatment and care for babies that have been born prematurely. Remarkably, artificial wombs have been successfully tested with animals where they are incubated in an environment that closely resembles the womb of their mothers.
How the womb works
This is being done at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the concept of the artificial womb is to treat the premature babies more like fetuses rather than newborns in an effort to increases their chances of survival. It is stated that babies weighing even as little as a single pound can be linked to these incubators. Once inside, they are kept for a few weeks and monitored. The environment of the container is filled with a fluid that mimics the amniotic fluid found in a mother’s uterus. There is also an artificial placenta that oxygenates the blood to keep the baby healthy.
How animal testing made it possible
Initially, this test has been done on prematurely born lambs and they have successfully grown in these artificial wombs. They have been kept in these wombs for an average of 4 weeks. Initially, they have started with only a small fetus that mostly slept its time in the womb. As the weeks progressed, they noticed the fetus started to become more lively and grow its wool. There were five premature lambs that were tested on and all of them managed to grow perfectly healthy.
Most of these lambs had to be euthanized to gain more insight on the organ development during this gestational period. Knowing this, we do not know any long term effects of being grown in an artificial womb but no doubt this will be something the researches will be taking into consideration.