Scientists from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment (CHOP) created an artificial womb in which premature lambs developed normally as if they were inside a real womb. Researchers hope to one day use the device to help save premature human babies.
The study published in the journal Nature Communications says the device consists of a clear bag filled with synthetic amniotic fluid. A pumpless oxygenator circuit, which acts like a mother’s placenta, outside of the bag is connected to the fetus of the lamb through an umbilical cord. Blood flows outs of the fetus through the oxygenator and back into the fetus. The system doesn’t use an external pump to provide oxygen, but the fetus’ own heart.
Fetal lambs developed in the devices for up to four weeks.