>> The idea seems straight out of a sci-fi comic but this is very much real life. Scientists in America have developed this fluid filled bag which acts as a womb. It could transform care for extremely premature babies. An umbilical cord is attached to a device so that the baby can pump its own blood and oxygen.
Reuters health and science correspondent Kate Kelland explains.>> Well it acts as a bridge between the mother's womb and the outside world. The three main elements are that there is no external ventilator. That the umbilical cord is pumping its own blood and using the oxygen in that way.
And that the baby is in a fluid filled bag so that it's much more akin to what it's like inside the womb. It's keeping the environment much more natural, much closer to the womb environment that it has come from. The external ventilators tend to put far too much pressure on a tiny infant and that's why the survival rates are not good at the moment.
>> The idea is that after a few weeks in the bag, the baby can be removed and placed on a ventilator until it can breath independently. In preclinical studies with lambs, the researchers were able to mimic the womb environment and the functions of the placenta. They say this allows babies a crucial opportunity to develop their lungs and other organs.
Around 30,000 babies across the US alone are born critically early at between 23 and 26 weeks of gestation. At that age they weigh little more than 500 grams and their lungs aren't able to cope. Death rates are up to 70%, and those who do survive can face lifelong disability.
The system is still in its own incubation period as the team refined the process and downsize it. They say it could take another ten years before the technology is available to be used on human babies.