The survival of extremely preterm infants, those born at less than 26 weeks of gestation, is very low. Among those who manage to survive, in addition, the appearance of serious sequelae is very frequent.
With these children and their families in mind, the BCNatal clinical and research center, attached to the Sant Joan de Déu and Clínic de Barcelona hospitals, launched a project three years ago to create an artificial placenta capable of emulating the conditions that are produced in the womb. The objective of this device is to be able to prolong the adequate fetal development, minimizing the risk of mortality and sequelae.
Three years later, the researchers have shown that the project is viable. According to the data presented at a press conference, the team has managed to develop a functional artificial placenta prototype and has achieved a 12 day survival in animal models guaranteeing a good fetal state.
In experiments with sheep fetuses, the researchers have managed to achieve 12-day survival on three occasions, although they have also achieved several success stories with 10 and 9-day survival, quite a “milestone”, as noted by Eduard Gratacósdirector of BCNatal and leader of the project, who stressed that “this is a very unique project that is determined to change the lives of thousands of people around the world”.
According to the team’s forecasts, “if everything goes well, in two or three years“Clinical trials could be initiated in the context of compassionate use therapy for humans.