Artificial Womb Developed for Lambs May Help Premature Babies

Animal research is once again contributing to amazing progress in the medical field—this time to save premature babies.

In a recent study at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, lambs at the age equivalent to 23 weeks in human pregnancy were placed in an “artificial womb” after birth, where they lived for four weeks. The lambs grew and developed normally in the artificial womb, which looks similar to an incubator and contains amniotic fluids and other essential nutrients necessary for protection and growth. This is exciting news for human medicine because in the United States around 30,000 babies are born before they reach 26 weeks.

Since it takes 39-40 weeks for a human baby to fully develop, critically premature babies born at 26 weeks develop diseases like cerebral palsy, paralysis, blindness and mental retardation about 90 percent of the time. The artificial womb, which is expected to be tested in human babies within three to five years, could prevent the necessity for certain procedures and surgeries.

To read more about the study and watch a video of a lamb in the artificial womb, click here.