Doctors hope they've figured out a way to keep extremely premature infants alive and healthy — by placing them in an artificial womb.
Babies born extremely prematurely, or before 28 weeks, make up a third of all infant deaths in the U.S. And in those that survive, organ immaturity can lead to severe conditions like lung disease.
So doctors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia rethought the way they cared for preemies. Instead of treating them like a fully developed baby, they created a device that simulated a mother's womb.
The first test was done with fetal lambs, which closely resemble human fetuses. A device pumped oxygen-rich blood to the fetus and removed CO2, just as a mother's placenta would.
The fetus is surrounded by a synthetic amniotic fluid and uses it to "breathe" in and out, which helps lung development.
Human trials are still a few years away, but ethical and political concerns have already been raised, including the potential implications for abortion laws and maternity rights.