Scientists create first artificial womb to help premature births

Scientists at the Eindhoven University of Technology have been responsible for the latest dedicated research of creating an artificial womb within the next decade. The breakthrough innovation was presented the Future and Emerging Technologies grant of the European program Horizon 2020. As a result of which the study received almost 3 million euros which further helped in creating the artificial womb.

Experts allege, the model will help babies with artificial respiration. In case of premature birth, the artificial womb helps in providing a substitute for the protective environment of the maternal womb. The womb thus helps in creating a natural environment for the baby and enhances the transition to a new life.

The artificial womb would provide biological conditions as against currently used incubators. As a result, the baby is protected with fluids and oxygen, in addition to other nutrients. This is made possible through an artificial placenta which connects to their umbilical cord.

More than 1 in 10 babies are affected globally through premature birth. Premature birth further also leads to health problems, thus requiring stay in the neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), this also helps in supporting the cardiorespiratory function of the baby and their development to full term.

According to scientists, NICUs are not an adequate substitute for the protective environment of womb. As a result, scientists created an intrauterine environment which can be protected extracorporeally. It can transfer an extremely premature baby to a support system of perinatal life. The fetal organs can thus be developed to maturity.

The perinatal life solution will help in supplying nutrients and oxygen with the help of the fetal umbilical cord connected to an artificial placenta. The liquid based environment will also help in supporting fetal cardiorespiratory physiology and help in avoiding the adverse effects of air-based ventilation on the underdeveloped lungs of the infants.

Furthermore, experts wish to validate the life support system through state-of-the-art technology. The premature infants and their birth is hence mimicked through a manikin and advanced monitoring and computational model will create clinical guidance on the fetal treatment and status.

“During the next five years, we will conduct further research and test these technologies in a European collaboration, and continue to develop them until we manage to realize the first prototype of an artificial womb. That is a wonderful challenge,” said Guid Oei, a gynecologist at MMC and part-time professor at TU/e.