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Researchers grow fetal lambs in ‘Biobags’ — with goal of human trials in next 3 years

April 26, 2017

Researchers have successfully grown eight fetal lambs in external wombs, termed ‘Biobags,’ that were meant to simulate the conditions inside a mother’s uterus — a breakthrough that researchers hope could lead to a major shift in health outcomes for prematurely born children.

From the outside, the Biobag resembles a normal, if large, ziplock bag. But by sealing premature lambs inside the bags and linking them to tubes of blood and an amniotic fluid substitute, scientists found that the fetal lambs were able to grow in the bags just as they would have inside of a uterus. According to fetal surgeon Alan Flake, lead author of the study, the experiment proved a tremendous success — so much so that he predicted that the Biobag would be cleared for human trials in the next three years.

Normally, infants born prematurely require mechanical ventilation, medications, and IVs to provide nutrition and fluids. The leading cause of death among newborns is prematurity — of those that survive, between 20 and 50 percent suffer from health conditions caused by stunted development of their organs. But when researchers compared the health of eight fetal lambs after four weeks in the Biobag to the health of lambs of equal age that had been newly delivered by Cesarean-section, they found the health of the two groups to be nearly identical.

Flake hopes that the Biobag can help improve the “dismal outcomes” for premature infants. But regardless of what comes from his research, he added, “I’m still blown away.”

“I think it’s just an amazing thing to sit there and watch the fetus on this support acting like it normally acts in the womb,” he said. “It’s a really awe-inspiring endeavor to be able to continue normal gestation outside of the mom.”

Watch video of the Biobag below.

An artificial womb that can grow baby sheep

This artificial womb successfully grew baby sheep — and humans could be next.

Posted by The Verge on Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Read the full story at The Verge.


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