Artificial placentas could become a reality within five years

The uterus is home to the most complex and probably most fascinating achievement in human biology: the transformation of an embryo into a baby. But as Spectrum points out, this transformation would not be possible without the placenta. The latter is in fact the organ in which the fetus resides.

It is connected to the umbilical cord, which provides the necessary oxygen and nutrients. The artificial reproduction of what happened in the womb is a relatively complex, if not impossible, task, especially since scientists have not yet succeeded in solving all the riddles of the early stages of development.

Work that lasted more than a decade

However, fetal and pediatric surgeon George Mychaliska believes he can change that in the near future. Mychaliska, an official at CS Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA, has been working on an artificial placenta for more than a decade, which may be ready for human experimentation by this point. Five years.

Building a device for a baby born several weeks prematurely is not trivial. For example, the device must be beneficial to both breathing and growth of the fetus at the same time.

Major medical and technical challenges

However, in such a condition, the baby is generally very small and therefore very fragile. As futurism points out, premature babies run the risk of long-term health problems and / or development of a developmental disorder because their body is not yet ready to breathe independently. On the other hand, emergency medical procedures can damage the lungs. All of this poses medical and technical challenges.

The artificial reproduction of what happens in the uterus is a relatively complex task. Image credit: Shutterstock / Explode

Prevent premature breathing of the fetus

Mychaliska’s artificial placenta therefore takes these limitations into account to ensure the fetus grows well and maintains its health. For this purpose, the expert decided on a system with which the lungs can be filled with fluid like in the womb. The endotracheal tube is then tightened to prevent premature breathing, which would damage the respiratory system.

Note that this project is not the only one aimed at increasing the chances of survival for premature babies. Many other concepts such as the biobag (video below) are in development. While some involve immersing the fetus in a bath of fluid, others rely on new technologies that try to mimic the breathing of the lungs.

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