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Artificial Human Wombs Closer As Scientists Grow Lambs in Unique "BioBags"
Scientists successfully test an ingenious system for growing premature fetuses.
Scientists were successful in creating an artificial womb that grew premature lamb fetuses for four weeks. They hope to develop a similar system for human babies in the next three to five years.
Being born prematurely is the most common cause of death among babies, while even survivors are often plagued by various lifelong disabilities due to underdeveloped organs. About 10% of babies born every year in the U.S. are premature. Scientists hope their unique system of “BioBags,” fluid-filled plastic bags that serve as artificial uteruses, can make a major difference in the survival and health of these babies.
Compared to incubators, the advantage of the new system is that the bags are sealed, protecting fetuses from infections. The BioBags are filled with water and salts to approximate the amniotic fluid inside a uterus. The fetuses grow in a near-sterile, computer-controlled environment.
To replace placenta, which provides fetuses with oxygen and necessary nutrients, the scientists used special oxygenator devices connected to the umbilical cords of the lamb fetuses in the study. A novel technique allowed the heartbeats of the fetuses to pull in the oxygen they needed.
The study's leader Alan Flake of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania said:
“We’ve developed a system that, as closely as possible, reproduces the environment of the womb and replace the function of the placenta.”
Check out this video published by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to learn more about the study:
The experiment involved lambs that were 4 to 6 weeks away from completing their normal gestational period of 21 weeks, which is equivalent to 23 or 24 week pregnancy milestone in humans. The physiological similarity of lamb fetuses to human was the reason the lambs were chosen for the experiment. The lamb fetuses were removed via C-section, placed in the bags and observed for four weeks. All of the lambs developed healthily and normally.
While others were euthanized and studied further, some of the lambs were removed from the bag and bottle-weaned. The oldest of those is now one.
It took the scientists three years and four prototypes to devise the current device. They note that, if successful, their system could also produce economic benefits as the annual medical care cost of premature babies is currently at $43 billion.
Other scientists expressed cautious optimism about the findings, pointing out the need for further testing. The team making the artificial womb hopes to use it for babies born at about 24 weeks, when their chances of survival are better.
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.
If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.
- Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
- Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
- One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.
Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.
- Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
- The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
- The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
Duke researchers have developed the first gel-based synthetic cartilage with the strength of the real thing. A quarter-sized disc of the material can withstand the weight of a 100-pound kettlebell without tearing or losing its shape.
Photo: Feichen Yang.<p>That's the word from a team in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adfm.202003451" target="_blank">new paper</a>, published in the journal,<em> Advanced Functional Materials</em>, details this exciting evolution of this frustrating joint.<br></p><p>Researchers have sought materials strong and versatile enough to repair a knee since at least the seventies. This new hydrogel, comprised of three polymers, might be it. When two of the polymers are stretched, a third keeps the entire structure intact. When pulled 100,000 times, the cartilage held up as well as materials used in bone implants. The team also rubbed the hydrogel against natural cartilage a million times and found it to be as wear-resistant as the real thing. </p><p>The hydrogel has the appearance of Jell-O and is comprised of 60 percent water. Co-author, Feichen Yang, <a href="https://today.duke.edu/2020/06/lab-first-cartilage-mimicking-gel-strong-enough-knees" target="_blank">says</a> this network of polymers is particularly durable: "Only this combination of all three components is both flexible and stiff and therefore strong." </p><p> As with any new material, a lot of testing must be conducted. They don't foresee this hydrogel being implanted into human bodies for at least three years. The next step is to test it out in sheep. </p><p>Still, this is an exciting step forward in the rehabilitation of one of our trickiest joints. Given the potential reward, the wait is worth it. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.