How would society change with an artificial womb? One of the key medical frontiers is ensuring that premature babies can grow to childhood. But while that future is still far, far away, some arresting progress has been made with an artificial womb that’s giving birth to lambs.
Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have been working on an artificial womb called the “BioBag,” which, admittedly, is a terrible name for a potentially amazing product. The idea is that extremely premature babies, lambs in this case, can be put into the bag which will take on the functions of a womb. The BioBag imitates the crucial functions of a uterus, like exchanging amniotic fluid and getting blood to the fetus. And, on the lambs at least, it’s worked! There’s no indication that the lambs had any developmental disabilities or other health problems.
The team is making clear that the BioBag, which they estimate is roughly three years away from any sort of human trial, won’t be a magic bullet, or open the door to pregnancy-free babies tomorrow. The goal here is really to offer the thousands of babies a year born extremely prematurely better care, in the future, as right now parents have a choice between risky life-support methods that might lead to a lifetime of health problems, and more or less rolling the dice on comfort care and hoping their baby doesn’t die. But really, that’s more than enough.
(Via The Verge)