The womb-like device uses a temperature-controlled sac filled with synthetic amniotic fluid.
"Our system could prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants by potentially offering a medical technology that does not now exist", Flake said. At the start of the test, the fetal lamb test subjects were roughly the same gestational age as a critically premature human fetus.
The study with lambs has shown how human babies could get an extra four weeks in gestation - by way of a sealed sterile plastic bag filled with amniotic fluid, connected to a machine that functions like a placenta, providing nutrition and oxygen to the blood via the umbilical cord, whilst removing carbon dioxide.
It's something that wouldn't be out of place in a sci-fi movie - a lamb inside a plastic bag with tubes and fluids helping it grow.
"This is really an innovative, promising first step, " said Spong, who was not involved with the research. One of the surviving lambs now lives a healthy life on a farm in Pennsylvania. However, most premature babies that survive develop chronic lung disease or other complications of organ immaturity, especially if they were born before 28 weeks.
A handout photo released on April 25, 2017 by Nature Communications and made available by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia showing a lamb (left) at 107 days of gestation, on the 4th day of support inside a Biobag, and the same lamb on the 28th day of support, illustrating growth and maturation (right) in Philadelphia. Human versions of this artificial wombs should become available within the next two years, the Philadelphia team declared.
The new device helped even the youngest lambs develop normally.
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The study didn't account for differences in state policy, other than by separating Colorado and California from the other states. Illicit use was generally defined as illegal use of marijuana without a prescription at least 12 times during the past year.
The external or artificial womb - called a Biobag by developers - is meant to give infants born months too early a more natural, uterus-like environment to continue developing in.
"Fluid is very important in terms of fetal lung development", said Flake. This is to provide the proper nutrition to the premature baby. They are now using the bag on human-sized lambs and tracking the progress of those that survived after being taken off the ventilator, "I think it's realistic to think about three years for first-in-human trials", Flake said.
"Our system could prevent the severe morbidity suffered by extremely premature infants by potentially offering a medical technology that does not now exist".