The development of an artificial placenta — used successfully in premature lambs — could revolutionize the treatment of extreme prematurity.
Researchers at the University of Michigan are working to improve survival rates in the tiniest, most premature babies in a groundbreaking way: through an artificial placenta that mimics the womb.

The technology hasn’t reached a clinical trial, but researchers from U-M’sC.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Extracorporeal Circulation Research Laboratory  are making dramatic progress. An extracorporeal artificial placenta at the institution has kept five extremely premature lambs alive for a week. The lambs were transferred to the artificial placenta, which utilizes extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), without ever taking their first breath.                                                     

The ultimate goal of nearly a decade of sustained work: for an artificial placenta to help extremely premature babies with the greatest risks of disability or death continue critical organ development outside of their mother’s womb.

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