We recently made several donations to important pediatric funds at Michigan Medicine, the healthcare system run by the University of Michigan. One of the funds we picked supports the development of an artificial placenta, which is designed to mimic the womb environment and help premature babies.
Artificial placenta: what has already been accomplished?
Artificial placenta technology has not yet reached clinical trials, but an animal experiment has demonstrated remarkable success thus far. Researchers from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Extracorporeal Circulation Research Laboratory worked together to keep five extremely premature lambs alive for a week. The artificial placenta utilized extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which kept the lambs alive without reliance on breathing.
What’s next for the artificial placenta?
The goal of this research is to develop an artificial placenta that could help extremely premature babies survive. In a U of M Health Lab Blog, Beata Mostafavi notes that this, “could revolutionize the treatment of extreme prematurity.”
One of the biggest risks facing preemies is their underdeveloped lungs; they are often unable to provide the brain, heart, and other major organs with enough oxygen. This can lead to brain damage, permanent disabilities, and even death. As George Mychaliska, M.D., explains, premature babies would benefit greatly from more time in an intrauterine environment. “Maybe we should treat these babies as if they are still in the womb,” he says. “This is a complete paradigm shift.”
Although U of M researchers aim to eventually use their artificial placenta to save human babies, there is much work yet to be done. Over the next five years, their goal is to use the artificial placenta to help a lamb progress from extreme prematurity to normal newborn physiology. After that, preliminary clinical trials may be warranted.
Want to learn more about the artificial placenta?
Click here to read an article about this research: https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/health-tech/artificial-placenta-holds-promise-for-extremely-premature-infants
For more information about the Extracorporeal Circulation Research Laboratory, click here: https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/health-tech/artificial-placenta-holds-promise-for-extremely-premature-infants
To learn more about donating to this research or another project run by U of M, click here: https://umich.edu/giving/