In 2017, eerie photos appeared in the media of a premature lamb lying in a polyethylene bag and connected to wires with nutrient fluid. It was an experimental artificial womb, codenamed EXTEND, created by scientists at the Philadelphia Research Institute.
It made it possible to save the lives of lambs born too early for normal life. This period approximately corresponded to the 23rd week of human pregnancy and the artificial uterus coped with its task.
The lambs in it continued to grow, develop and become covered with wool for three weeks. This included normal development of their brain at a level as if they were developing inside their mother.
Therefore, now the question has arisen of using an artificial uterus directly on humans. Recently, scientists announced that they hope that this issue will be resolved in 2024. In total, Philadelphia scientists conducted about 300 successful experiments on lambs.
The baby, placed in an artificial womb, was first connected through the umbilical cord to the so-called oxygenator, which ensures blood circulation. The system also allows the baby to breathe and swallow amniotic fluid, as happens in a normal uterus.
“The animals exhibited normal or increased movements, sleep/wake cycles, intermittent breathing and swallowing, and generally appeared comfortable and unstressed,” the researchers shared.
“The idea was to get through the difficulties when they were really struggling and get them to the point where they were doing well.”
Alan Flake, one of the developers of EXTEND, says their invention cannot completely replace pregnancy and is nothing more than a “sensational, speculative pipe dream.”
However, who knows what will happen in 10 or 20 years, given the rapid development of science.