An artificial placenta tested in sheep is preparing to be transferred to humans

The CaixaResearch Placenta Artificial project, which develops artificial placentas for premature babies and has already obtained good results in sheep, is preparing to be transferred to humans.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 05:36
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An artificial placenta tested in sheep is preparing to be transferred to humans

The CaixaResearch Placenta Artificial project, which develops artificial placentas for premature babies and has already obtained good results in sheep, is preparing to be transferred to humans.

The aim is to artificially develop these organs that develop in the mother's womb for premature babies that allow the fetus to be kept outside the womb in a similar environment and minimize the risk of sequelae. So far it has been successfully tested in sheep. It is an artificial placenta that simulates the conditions of the mother's womb with the aim of saving future babies born before 26 weeks of gestation.

"We have 14 days of survival in sheep and we are working in collaborations with the industry to improve the stability, standardization, reliability and reproducibility of the system to prepare for the transfer to humans", explained to La Vanguardia Elisenda Bonet , the scientific director of the project, who this week received the Círculo Ecuestre Jove Rellevant 2024 award. Telecommunications engineer, master's degree in neuroscience, this 39-year-old doctor in biomedicine has been involved in the project since 2019, funded by the La Caixa Foundation . The aforementioned project brings together more than 40 professionals and more than 30 collaborators, most of them from Catalonia.

In a first trial, fetuses managed to survive twelve days in a container with amniotic fluid. At the moment they already have 14 days of survival, Elisenda Bonet pointed out.

In order for them to develop properly, the sheep's umbilical cord has been connected to an oxygenation and nutrition system specially designed for this project. Less than a year ago, the forecast was to be able to start using this placenta in humans within three to five years, according to the project leader and director of BCNatal, attached to the Clínic and Sant Joan de Déu hospitals, Eduard grateful But before that, so that it can be used in humans, it will be necessary to improve the technology that allows to help the most vulnerable premature babies.

And in parallel, the whole part of intellectual protection is being worked on and "starting contacts with the relevant agencies as essential steps to move it, in the future, to humans", explained the engineer and doctor in biomedicine Elisenda Bonet.

Before the 26th week of gestation, the respiratory system, the digestive system and the brain of the fetuses are not yet ready to function independently outside the mother's body. For this reason, the most extreme premature babies have a high mortality rate and many of the survivors are at high risk of lifelong sequelae. The problem affects 25,000 animals a year in Europe.

La Caixa Foundation has contributed more than seven million euros to the CaixaResearch Artificial Placenta for the two phases of the project, which will last until 2027.