Researchers at Eindhoven University have been given a €2.9m grant for their work on the development of artificial wombs for premature babies,
The grant, from the EU’s Horizon fund, comes a year after the artificial womb concept was first presented at Dutch Design Week. The grant, the researchers say, will make it possible to produce a working prototype within five years.
The artificial womb will act as both incubator and artificial respirator but, the researchers say, its more natural because it resembles a real womb more closely.
‘Our goal with the artificial womb is to help extremely premature babies get through the critical period of 24 to 28 weeks,’ says Guid Oei, gynecologist at MMC and part-time professor at the university.
The chances of survival for these babies are low; approximately half of the babies that are born at 24 weeks die. And the ones that survive often suffer from lifelong chronic disorders such as brain damage, respiratory problems and eye conditions that can possibly cause blindness.
Different technologies will be used in developing the womb, says Frans van de Vosse, project coordinator and professor of cardiovascular biomechanics.
The system, he said, will continually monitors the baby’s condition. ‘Think of heart rate and oxygen supply, but also of brain and muscle activity,’ he said. ‘Smart computer models that simulate the baby’s condition provide the doctor with immediate support in the decision-making process with regard to the artificial womb’s settings.”
University researchers also also developing a practice doll that can accurately simulate extremely premature babies in an intensive care ward. This, the team says, will make it possible to evaluate the artificial womb in a realistic test setting before it is used in clinics.
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