Recreating the Womb: New Hope for Premature Babies


>>I think that most physicians who remember
their first encounter in the NICU with a critically low birth weight premature infant, they’re
fascinatingly resilient. At the same time, they present a real clinical
conundrum. Just looking at them, it is immediately clear
that they shouldn’t be here yet; they’re not ready.>>The first health challenge the very preterm
babies face is actually surviving, being born very preterm. Amongst those that survive, the challenges
really are some of the things we all take very much for granted: walking, talking, seeing,
hearing, and developing along the normal path.>>Many of the infants that are born preterm
once they leave the hospital can be institutionalized. Many of the infants have cerebral palsy.>>In the United States, about 1 percent of
all infants are considered significantly premature. And so, the frequency of prematurity has increased
significantly in the last two or three decades. So, the problem isn’t going away.>>So, some of the terms we use when talking
about preterm infants is mortality, which means death, and morbidity, which means sickness. So, if we take a look at mortality of the
infants born at 24 weeks, it’s around about 50 percent. Now, those infants that do survive the early
neonatal period, they are normally around about 90 percent morbidity. So the majority of those infants born at 24
weeks have some sort of illness, and most of the time that is due to lung immaturity.>>When babies are born at 23 and 24 weeks,
they’re really not ready to breathe. They are being cared for with tools that are
the best we can provide, and they provide a great benefit compared to 50 years ago. But compared to where we would like to be,
we’re still not close.>>Our system is really a recreation of the
environment that a fetus normally resides in.>>So, many research groups have been trying
to develop a system like this since the 1950s; however, they’ve met with limited success. So, we went back to the literature, and we
had a look at what other people had tried, and we sort of transitioned our line of thought
to let’s not treat this as a newborn baby, let’s actually treat this as a fetus.>>We chose the lamb, an animal model for
a number of reasons. Most of what we know about human fetal development
is from the lamb. So, all of the physiologic research over the
past 50, 60 years that have told us about the fetal circulation, about developmental
events, most of it has been from the lamb. The system — it works by two major components. The first one is a circulatory system that
goes through an oxygenator. So, it’s a connection through the umbilical
cord vessels that allows blood to flow out of the fetus through the oxygenator back into
the fetus. It exchanges gas like the placenta does. And then the other component is a fluid environment
that surrounds the fetus and allows the fetus to swallow and breathe amniotic fluid like
it’s supposed to during development. Our lambs receive everything that they receive
in their mothers’ womb in a very physiologic way. So, they mature normally; they grow normally.>>We have reported in our manuscript the
support of these fetuses for up to four weeks, which is far in excess of the experience of
other researchers.>>So, Thomas Edison said to be an inventor,
all you need is an imagination and a pile of junk. And essentially, that is the story of this
system.>>For the first few generations, we used
a lot of supplies from plumbing/piping, beer stores. We did not have grants at the time. So, it really required a bit of innovation
to create the first prototype really from nothing.>>And so, they gathered up some used items
from the ECMO program and went on eBay and Home Depot and came up with a primitive fishbowl
system. And with all of that, I was convinced that
we could do some pilot experiments and they worked amazingly well.>>One thing the project has
taught me is never give up. You’ve got to keep going, keep going
until it works.>>We believe that the animal data that we
have reported in this manuscript really supports translating our system into a clinical therapy
for human babies.>>In the future, we envision a system that
will be in the NICU, and it will look pretty much like a traditional incubator. It will have a lid that we’ll be able to move
up and down, and inside that heated warm chamber will be the infant.>>It is a hugely important point that we
do not intend to challenge the currently accepted standard for a viable infant. The challenging age that we’re trying to offset
is that 23- to 24-week baby who is faced with such a challenge of adapting to life outside
of the uterus on dry land. So, our intention would not be to support
them on our system until they were a chubby 40-week gestation babe. The idea is to bridge the rough patch when
they’re really struggling and carry them through to a point when they can do OK.>>Nobody is looking to extend the limits
of viability with this set of care techniques. I think we’re just simply trying to provide
a different set, a different model that has … is clearly revolutionary.>>If it’s as successful as we think it can
be, ultimately, the majority of pregnancies that are predicted at a risk for extreme prematurity
would be delivered early onto our system, rather than being delivered premature onto
a ventilator. With that, we would have normal physiologic
development and avoid essentially all of the major risks of prematurity. And that would translate into, you know, a
huge impact on pediatric health. We’re in the process of interacting with the
FDA. So, it’s not inconceivable that, you know,
we could be talking about a clinical trial one to two years from now.>>It never fails to strike me what a miracle
it is to see this fetus that is clearly not ready to be born enclosed in this fluid space —
breathing, swallowing, swimming, dreaming — with complete detachment from the placenta
and from mom. It is an awe-inspiring sight. This certainly is a project that would have
sounded more like science fiction than a reality, but over three years of really doggedly pursuing
it and refusing to accept setbacks and limitations, it has become a very real therapeutic tool.>>We had this kind of sort of cool group
of people where we could really approach this from different angles and apply all of our
skill sets together to move forward and succeed.>>It has been nothing but a privilege to
do this work because of the potential that it represents. These infants are desperate for solutions
and for innovation.

42 Replies to “Recreating the Womb: New Hope for Premature Babies”

  1. Awesome work! Good luck in going into clinical trial (in 1-2 years) and hope all work out great to help premature infants. P.S. I just watched a CTV News interview with co-inventor Dr. Emily Partridge. Worth a watch. http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1109230&playlistId=1.3385633&binId=1.810401&playlistPageNum=1&binPageNum=1

  2. This sounds really wonderful. I know I've seen many comments on other sites regarding this process that were very negative and degrading the viability, thinking it to be an anti-God or anti-natural device, when in actuality it is very much a pro-God and pro-natural device that merely assists the fetus at a critical time in its development. Even I can see that, and I know nothing about medicine or medical proceedures. I would think the world would welcome this. I believe God Himself would praise the effort of man to help instead of hinder the birthing of a healthy infant ….or even of a lamb. Farmers would love that opportunity as well.

  3. This will make the pro choice/pro life debate moot. Aborted foetuses will be grown in an artificial womb before being taken out and put into state care. But as already known they have been trying to achieve this for 50 years. So will likely will take another 50 or more years to perfect. I can see the demand being quite high for such a device.

  4. I wonder how the results would change if a recording of the mothers heartbeat like in a real womb was added in? Would the babies do better, what are the psychological differences with babies kept in an incubator/biobag/womb for weeks 23+ ?

    I love learning more about this so if anyone has anything interesting they want to add that they've thought of then type away!

  5. I dont want to be rude at all but am I the only one who thinks this is also an amazing breakthrough for de extinction? Like holy now I dont think they'd need a segregate mother tho I can be mistaken.

  6. This is an amazing breakthrough, the doctors deserve a nobel price in medicine. What you have done is amazing piece of engineering, it's a miracle, which will save thousands if not millions of lives. If you asking me thats the most important invention this year and in the history of the human kind.

  7. Вот за что уважаю амеров – у них и с наукой всё хорошо, и фильмы классные снимают, и в дальний космос аппаратов запустили больше всех. Вот только с политикой полная жопа – лезут туда, куда Диоген телят не гонял. Может будете заниматься и дальше – медициной, фильмами и космосом, а к другим не лезьте.

    Авторы молодцы! Если всё получится, то это тысячи!!! счастливых семей.

  8. I'm hoping that these amazing doctors can come across a way to study and prevent stillbirth while studying the growth in the lamb fetus'.

  9. This is amazing! I pray that this will bridge the gap and save many lives! I am a nurse and a mother who lost 3 of my 6 children. I had a life threatening pregnancy and had to have one child delivered prematurely. Thankfully her lungs were developed enough and she lived. I can't imagine life without her! Losing a child is excruciatingly painful. It would be such a gift if this invention could spare parents and families of such a trauma. I wish everyone would cherish every life from conception to natural death. Don't take life for granted! Don't destroy life! All life is such a gift from God and an absolute blessing!

  10. Thank you to the doctors and everyone who has been working on this invention! I pray that you are successful and that babies can be saved! I am curious to know how you supply the necessary nutrients to the baby while they are in this device. God bless you for trying to save lives! Life is so precious!

  11. Thanks to science, people have learned to survive in incredible and deadly situations. I hope that soon it will be possible to modify people genetically. Despite the survival rate, the causes and consequences remain and are inherited.
    (As an example: if the cancer ceases to be a fatal disease, eventually all people will have cancer.)

  12. this brought me to tears. if this works, what a blessing for our babies! praying for the research team, that God will bless your work as you use the gifts He's given you responsibly, for the good of humanity!

  13. Wow! How has this not gone viral? This is incredible! How does the baby receive the nutrients it needs to grow?

  14. Wow congratulations at this life saving project! You came to this earth to make a difference n improve our lives, thank you.

  15. Fascinating. I hope this works because it would be amazing for those precious premature babies. They shouldn't be here yet as mentioned, so recreating the womb for them is wonderful.

  16. I was born at eight months after my mother had five miscarriages and the doctors told my mother they would have to do some tests but lucky for me they all came back negative

  17. Omg this almost made me cry. Unhealthy babies always get me. 🙁 This is truly amazing, though! I'm so incredibly grateful to them and I don't even have kids lol

  18. I'm premature by 3 months and had 2 near death experiences because of it, Prematurity is nothing to joke about and I'm just glad the kids of this generation have a better chance of living than I did

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