• Lyla Kok

Womb in your living roomBy Hilary Clarke - Published Friday, December 3, 2021

Based at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, the first phase of development of the Perinatal Life Support System (PLS), or incubator 2:0 (as they like to call it), is being developed by a cross-disciplinary consortium of engineers and doctors from the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. The first phase is funded with a €2.9m grant from the EU’s Horizon 2020.

Led by Professor Frans van de Vosse from the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Professor Guid Oei, a gynaecologist from the Máxima Medical Center, a teaching hospital in southern Holland, the project also involves researchers from the Politecnico di Milano and the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen in Germany. Dutch neonatal start-up Juno Perinatal Healthcare is involved with the entrepreneurial, intellectual property rights and funding side of the project. “By linking big data as well as patient data to the mannequin model, we can also simulate the effect of different treatments to make sure doctors make the best choices,” he adds.

One big problem the team face right now is connecting the umbilical cord to the artificial placenta.

There are two arteries and one vein in umbilical cords. Yet in a human foetus, as soon as the umbilical cord is cut, the veins and artery go into spasm.

This makes is very difficult to cannulate to the artificial placenta, a process that must be done in three minutes so as not to cause any damage to the premature baby.

Another even bigger challenge for the researchers is to prevent coagulation of blood that goes from the umbilical cord to an oxygenator and back.

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