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An artificial womb is being prepared for use with premature infants following successful experiments with lambs

In 2017, eerie photos of a premature lamb lying in a polyethylene bag and connected to tubes with a nutrient solution appeared in the media. This was an experimental artificial womb with the code name EXTEND, created by scientists from the Philadelphia Research Institute.

It allowed the survival of lambs born too early for normal viability. This period roughly corresponded to the 23rd week of human pregnancy, and the artificial womb performed its task quite well.

The lambs in it continued to grow, develop, and even grew wool for three weeks. Their brain development also proceeded normally, as if they were developing inside the mother.

Therefore, the question of applying artificial wombs directly to humans has arisen. Recently, scientists announced that they hope this issue will be resolved as early as 2024.

Philadelphia scientists conducted about 300 successful experiments on lambs. A newborn placed in the artificial womb was first connected through the umbilical cord to a so-called oxygenator, which provides blood circulation. The system also allows the newborn to breathe and swallow amniotic fluid, as in a normal womb.

“Animals showed normal or enhanced movements, sleep/wake cycles, intermittent breathing and swallowing, and generally appeared comfortable and unstressed,” the researchers shared.

“The idea was to overcome the difficulties when they really struggle and get them to the point where they are okay.”

Alan Flake, one of the developers of EXTEND, says their invention cannot completely replace pregnancy and is currently nothing more than a “sensationally speculative unfulfilled dream.” However, who knows what will happen in 10 or 20 years given the rapid advancement of science.


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