Recreating the Womb: New Hope for Premature Babies (Lambs for now)

Recreating the Womb

Wonderful news from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), “A Unique Womb-Like Device Could Reduce Mortality and Disability for Extremely Premature Babies

A unique womb-like environment designed by pediatric researchers could transform care for extremely premature babies, by mimicking the prenatal fluid-filled environment to give the tiniest newborns a precious few weeks to develop their lungs and other organs.

“Our system could prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants by potentially offering a medical technology that does not currently exist,” said study leader Alan W. Flake, MD, a Fetal Surgeon and Director of the Center for Fetal Research in the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Flake and colleagues report on preclinical studies of their extra-uterine support device today in Nature Communications. They tested and monitored effects on fetal lambs, in which prenatal lung development is very similar to that occurring in humans.

The innovative system uses a unique fluid-filled container attached to custom-designed machines that provide physiologic support. The fetal lambs grow in a temperature-controlled, near-sterile environment, breathing amniotic fluid as they normally do in the womb, their hearts pumping blood through their umbilical cord into a gas exchange machine outside the bag. Electronic monitors measure vital signs, blood flow and other crucial functions. […]

The initial impetus for the program came from CHOP Research Fellow Emily Partridge, MD, PhD, who experienced the challenges of caring for critically premature infants. “Those infants really struck a chord with me,” she said. She researched existing scientific literature, and five years ago proposed to Flake the pilot project that became the current device.

CTV News (with videos), “Hope for preemies as artificial womb helps tiny lambs grow

CBC News (with video), “Scientists successfully grow lambs in artificial womb, offering hope for preemies – The idea of treating preemies in fluid-filled incubators may sound strange, but physiologically it makes sense

Technical paper by //Emily A. Partridge, Marcus G. Davey, Matthew A. Hornick, Patrick E. McGovern, Ali Y. Mejaddam, Jesse D. Vrecenak, Carmen Mesas-Burgos, Aliza Olive, Robert C. Caskey, Theodore R. Weiland III, Jiancheng Han, James T. Connelly, Kevin C. Dysart, Alexander J. Schupper, Jack Rychik, Holly L. Hedrick, William H. Peranteau, and Alan W. Flake. “An extra-uterine physiologic support system for the extreme premature lamb.” Nature Communications. Published online April 25, 2017.//

Recreating the Womb: New Hope for Premature Babies

Recreating the Womb: Q&A with the Researchers

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