Premature babies may have a better chance of surviving outside the mother’s womb, thanks to the development of an artificial placenta. The project, led by George Mychaliska, a fetal and pediatric surgeon, in partnership with the University of Michigan, has been the result of more than a decade of studies.
Premature birth can be risky for the life of the baby, who is at risk of developing health problems that can be carried on for a lifetime, since the body is not yet prepared to breathe alone. As a result, the oxygen delivered to the newborn through the placenta is cut off, which can be fatal.
According to Mychaliska, the artificial placenta works as if it were an artificial respirator for newborns, filling their lungs with fluids as if they were actually inside the womb. The tracheal tube, which is inserted into the windpipe to pump oxygen and carbon dioxide, prevents the baby from trying to breathe ahead of time and ends up damaging his lungs.
The artificial placenta is a possibility for the future, but it is not yet a reality, and tests on humans can happen in five years. Until then, it will be necessary to conduct numerous more complete tests. If successful, the project could save the lives of babies born 28 weeks or less, barely reaching the third trimester of pregnancy.