Artificial Womb Human Trials Forthcoming – Breaking News
Breaking News: Human Trials for Artificial Wombs Forthcoming!
US Regulators to Consider Trials for Artificial Wombs Aimed at Saving Preterm Babies
Imagine a scenario where babies born very prematurely could be given a better chance at life. Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have been working on a groundbreaking project that might make this a reality. They’re developing a device known as the Extra-uterine Environment for Newborn Development, or EXTEND, which replicates some aspects of a mother’s womb. The goal is to improve the survival and health outcomes of babies born extremely preterm, typically before 28 weeks of gestation.
What’s the Issue? Premature birth is a significant global health problem, causing death and disability in many infants. In 2020 alone, around 13.4 million babies were born prematurely, with related complications leading to about 900,000 deaths in 2019. The chances of survival and long-term health outcomes for these babies are strongly linked to their gestational age at birth. Babies born at or before 22 weeks face very low survival rates.
The Artificial Womb Solution Artificial-womb technology aims to improve the chances of survival and health for preterm babies born between 22and 28 weeks of gestation. This technology replicates the womb’s function by providing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide, replacing traditional mechanical ventilators that can harm fragile developing lungs.
The CHOP researchers place extremely premature babies into what they call a “Biobag,” filled with a special fluid that mimics amniotic fluid. Surgeons then connect the baby’s blood vessels in the umbilical cord to a system outside the body that oxygenates the blood. This system allows the baby’s heart to pump blood, similar to what happens in a natural womb.
Different Approaches Researchers worldwide are exploring artificial-womb technology, but they have different approaches. For instance, a team in Michigan uses an artificial placenta that fills the baby’s lungs with oxygen and uses a pump to circulate blood outside the body. The CHOP method involves connecting both umbilical arteries and the vein.
Each approach has its pros and cons, such as the need for a cesarean section with the CHOP method or potential heart and brain risks with Michigan’s approach. However, these innovations aim to provide better options for extremely preterm babies.
The Road Ahead Despite the excitement surrounding this technology, there are ethical concerns. Researchers must gather more data before proceeding to human trials. Questions about safety, equipment size, and the potential implications for reproductive rights need careful consideration.
While artificial wombs could be a game-changer for premature babies, it’s essential to continue researching and improving other aspects of preterm care. Systemic measures are important, but these technologies offer hope when other options fail.
In conclusion, the development of artificial wombs is a promising step forward in neonatal care, offering hope for the most vulnerable preterm infants. However, it’s essential to navigate ethical, medical, and societal implications carefully as we move towards potential human trials.
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