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posted by takyon on Wednesday May 04 2016, @01:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the complete-artificial-womb-next dept.

A new artificial placenta that mimics conditions in the womb being developed by researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) might provide new hope [for premature babies].

The university has just reported that such an external placenta has kept five extremely premature lambs alive for a week. Although clinical trials are yet to be scheduled for humans, the researchers are hopeful that the technology might one day become a viable way to keep the earliest born babies alive until they can develop on their own.

[...] The artificial placenta works by using an [extracorporeal membrane oxygenation] (ECMO) system in which an external pump, or artificial lung, oxygenates the blood directly and bypasses the lungs. While ECMO has been around awhile, the researchers altered it in this case to serve very premature infants.

The technology would be a godsend for expectant parents if it pans out.

butthurt sent a correction: ECMO is short for "Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation" rather than "Extracorporeal Membrane Oxidation". Sources: Boston Children's Hospital, U.S. National Library of Medicine, and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

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Fetal Lambs Grown for 4 Weeks in Artificial Womb 12 comments

Various news outlets are reporting on work published in Nature Communications (open, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15112) (DX) on:

[...] a system that incorporates a pumpless oxygenator circuit connected to the fetus of a lamb via an umbilical cord interface that is maintained within a closed 'amniotic fluid' circuit that closely reproduces the environment of the womb. [...] fetal lambs that are developmentally equivalent to the extreme premature human infant can be physiologically supported in this extra-uterine device for up to 4 weeks.

Coverage:

Related stories:
Scientists Keep Human Embryos Alive Longer Outside of the Womb
Prematurely Born Lambs Kept Alive With Artificial External Placenta - Human Babies Could be Next


Original Submission

Placenta Eating Shows No Benefits in Initial Human Trial 37 comments

A small human trial (27 participants) has found no benefits to consuming (dried) placental pills. The control group took pills containing beef or vegetarian mock beef:

In two new studies, researchers conclude that new moms who consume their placentas experience no significant changes in their moods, energy levels, hormone levels, or in bonding with their new infant, when compared with moms ingesting a placebo. "It really does show that most of what's going on, if not all, is a placebo effect," says Mark Kristal, a behavioral neuroscientist at the State University of New York in Buffalo who has studied the practice—known as placentophagy—in other animals for more than 40 years.

Humans aren't the only species that eat their placentas. In fact, nearly all mammals do. In rats, placentophagy spurs moms to start taking care of their pups and relieves birthing pain; both amniotic fluid and placentas contain a factor that acts as a morphine-related analgesic. But whether placentophagy confers such benefits in humans has been unclear. What is clear is that the practice is gaining in popularity. Before the 1970s, it was used occasionally in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a host of ailments in men and women. Now, there are cookbooks that offer guidelines for the storage and preparation of placenta-based smoothies and meals. Most contemporary consumers first steam and dehydrate the placenta before pulverizing it and fashioning it into a vitaminlike pill.

Maybe they need to eat it when it is fresh and raw instead of dried and powdered.

Effects of placentophagy on maternal salivary hormones: A pilot trial, part 1 (DOI: 10.1016/j.wombi.2017.09.023) (DX)

Placentophagy's effects on mood, bonding, and fatigue: A pilot trial, part 2 (DOI: 10.1016/j.wombi.2017.11.004) (DX)

Related: The Gruesome History of Eating Corpses as Medicine
Prematurely Born Lambs Kept Alive With Artificial External Placenta - Human Babies Could be Next


Original Submission

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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @01:57AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @01:57AM (#341167)

    Squirt out more premature pussy fruits, drug addicted unwed mothers! We need your underage children to live, so we can tax them when they buy booze!!!

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @02:13AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @02:13AM (#341177)

    The technology would be a godsend for expectant parents if it pans out.

    Nope, this just complicates the abortion debate even more.

    Next up- artificial wombs

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday May 04 2016, @02:22AM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday May 04 2016, @02:22AM (#341180) Journal

      It may lead to abortion being nearly outlawed due to viability of the embryo being pushed further and further back, but in the end we will see artificial wombs and eventually artificial eggs. Women will be cut out of the childbirth process entirely.

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @02:31AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @02:31AM (#341183)

        There's still the question of bodily autonomy for women. Don't think I'd be too pleased if someone came at with a shop-vac wanting to save a life. Not to mention exactly what do you do with all these extra children. There really isn't a good answer to all this.

        Women will be cut out of the childbirth process entirely.

        If I recall correctly, you can create a viable embryo from two eggs, but not two sperm. And regardless, you still need eggs.

        We might move to a social norm of all IVF with designer genes, but the path there is going to be ugly, for both men and women.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:11AM

          by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:11AM (#341190) Journal

          If I recall correctly, you can create a viable embryo from two eggs, but not two sperm. And regardless, you still need eggs.

          I don't see why not. Sperm have an X and a Y chromosome. So you could make a male or female child from two sperm, but only female from two eggs.

          As for the egg that the DNA would be injected into, I would guess that it could be made artificially, or coaxed/copied into existence from one woman's starter egg.

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          • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:39AM

            by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:39AM (#341212) Journal

            I don't see why not.

            Because the sperms lack essential organelles.

            As for the egg that the DNA would be injected into

            See? You still need eggs.

            --
            The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
          • (Score: 1) by anubi on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:43AM

            by anubi (2828) on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:43AM (#341216) Journal

            Who knows... one day we may take the life-support mechanism of an ordinary hen's egg; repurpose it to support whatever DNA sequence it is to hatch into.

            The whole sequence starts with one cell anyway.

            --
            "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
          • (Score: 2) by sjames on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:44AM

            by sjames (2882) on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:44AM (#341217) Journal

            The mitochondria might be a problem.

        • (Score: 2) by butthurt on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:39AM

          by butthurt (6141) on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:39AM (#341213) Journal

          > you still need eggs.

          Yes, but an artificial ovary has been claimed:

          https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100914102108.htm [sciencedaily.com]

          In another experiment, immature eggs were extracted from vacuumed-up ovarian tissue; the eggs were matured and, I presume, fertilised in vitro, a resulting embryo was frozen for five years then, I presume, implanted, and "a healthy live birth" resulted.

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26297647 [nih.gov]

          If The White Plague comes true, we're almost ready.

      • (Score: 2) by sjames on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:35AM

        by sjames (2882) on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:35AM (#341206) Journal

        Two plus one equals none.

      • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday May 04 2016, @05:57PM

        by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 04 2016, @05:57PM (#341578) Journal

        "O Brave New World that has such creatures in it!"

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        Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
      • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Thursday May 05 2016, @02:25AM

        by Reziac (2489) on Thursday May 05 2016, @02:25AM (#341879) Homepage

        It will also lead to more sub-viable fetuses surviving. Which will promote a raft of genetic defects, given that a great many miscarriages are the body throwing out a fetus that has viability issues, which are commonly genetic.

        Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

        --
        And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday May 05 2016, @03:00AM

          by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Thursday May 05 2016, @03:00AM (#341885) Journal

          That's nothing more than a continuation of a problem that has existed for decades.

          People who wouldn't have made it to reproduction age 10,000, 1,000, or 200 years ago can now survive easily with modern medicine. Some of them would have been killed on sight or shunned, but in modern times have more consistent human rights.

          Some people have a mutation [sciencedaily.com] that allows them to resist HIV. But in recent years anti-viral drugs can keep people with HIV/AIDS alive. There are many other examples, like malaria/sickle cell.

          At some point, you just have to accept that today's science and medicine will lead to unnatural outcomes, and embrace those outcomes. And if the entire infrastructure that we know today were to collapse, you'd face big problems. But you would probably be too dead to care.

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          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
          • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Thursday May 05 2016, @03:34AM

            by Reziac (2489) on Thursday May 05 2016, @03:34AM (#341897) Homepage

            True. But that doesn't mean it's good for us as a species. Fortunately we're numerous enough that nonviables going into the gene pool are unlikely to do more than localized damage. At least, not unless after some future apocalypse, we wind up as scattered pockets with genetic bottlenecks.

            --
            And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:24AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:24AM (#341198)

      Along the same lines, I see this as a godsend for vain (and rich) women that want children, but not the inconvenience and body-shape changes that go along with pregnancy. Kind of like hiring a surrogate mother...but without all that legal complication.

  • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:46AM

    by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:46AM (#341218) Journal

    I really prefer if they keep the lambs alive with an artificial external placenta, instead of with human babies.

    --
    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Gravis on Wednesday May 04 2016, @04:48AM

    by Gravis (4596) on Wednesday May 04 2016, @04:48AM (#341260)

    while it's obvious that this will save the lives of prematurely born babies which is good in the short-term, this could be catastrophic move in the long-term. if prematurely born humans have their own offspring, this could easily lead to a cascading cycle of genetic weakness where all children are prematurely born. the end result could easily be humans losing the ability to reproduce without artificial assistance. at that point, it only takes a single disaster to wipe out humanity. we can pretend to be gods all we want but in the end, darwin always wins.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @07:13AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @07:13AM (#341320)

      no.
      first reason: the causes for premature births are generally not genetic.
      second reason: just like other problems, this could, at worst, lead to a slightly larger fixed percentage of premature babies. we are not all blind and deaf, even though lives for the blind and the deaf have become much easier, and I don't hear you complaining about everyone being blind and deaf in the future (which, to be honest, I find much scarier).

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by butthurt on Wednesday May 04 2016, @07:56AM

      by butthurt (6141) on Wednesday May 04 2016, @07:56AM (#341335) Journal

      Viable bacterial cells, containing only synthetic DNA (based upon naturally-occurring sequences that aren't fully understood), have already been made. It may become possible to make DNA for human cells using sequences from a database. Even if it's an exact copy of someone's natural DNA, evolution could be stopped. If "designer babies" become possible and desired, and artificial wombs become prevalent, the flesh-and-blood uterus might be engineered out of existence.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bootsy on Wednesday May 04 2016, @09:49AM

      by bootsy (3440) on Wednesday May 04 2016, @09:49AM (#341375)

      Interesting point. It's been 16 years since I last worked in a Neonatal ward so I am probably a bit out of the loop these days.
      There is a link with gestation duration and the previous generation. This tends to be taken more seriously in certain countries, I believe it is looked at in Denmark, largely ignored in the UK.
      A woman is more likely to have a late date on the first child if their mother was also late. The idea that 40 weeks is set in stone is not true. 42 weeks may not be an issue if there is a family history of the first born being late.

      Not sure if this works the other way around though. Right now we should be seeing the first generation of surviving premature babies having their own children. I'm not aware of any signs that being premature means your children are also premature. My wife was premature but my daughter was 1 week late. It's an interesting hypothesis. Anyone in the medical domain know of any research on this?

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:30PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04 2016, @03:30PM (#341486)

        The answer, of course, is 42.

  • (Score: 2) by bitstream on Wednesday May 04 2016, @09:04PM

    by bitstream (6144) on Wednesday May 04 2016, @09:04PM (#341719) Journal

    Perfect, now the military can produce conditioned soldiers with mass production all without any official pesky paper trail or transparency. I'll guess the same countries that have already permitted ethically daring experiments in this area will just follow up on this faster than others, and get a head start.

    Then pedophiles etc.. can farm their children all without any of those traces or transparency. To keep out any snoopers the above method can be practiced. Organized crime can of course profit from both. Free plantation guards and people to "use", for a fee of course.

    Add some DNA spice and the next in vitro generation can assimilate all the rest while resistance is slaughtered.

    The future is so bright, I got to wear shades....

  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday May 04 2016, @10:21PM

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday May 04 2016, @10:21PM (#341791) Journal
    • (Score: 2) by bitstream on Thursday May 05 2016, @09:35AM

      by bitstream (6144) on Thursday May 05 2016, @09:35AM (#341975) Journal

      Add a species wide conversation on AI and advanced implants too. Or for that matter permanent space settlements.