10:20 AM ET 07/18/97

Japanese scientist develops artificial womb

	    TOKYO (Reuter) - A Japanese scientist has developed an
artificial womb capable of incubating goat fetuses but it may
take 10 years before it could be used to save human babies, he
said Friday.
	    ``We're aiming eventually to use the technology for human
fetuses but it will take maybe 10 years,'' Juntendo University
gynecology professor Yoshinori Kuwabara told Reuters.
	    Kuwabara's findings have been published in the Journal of
the Japan Medical Association, the country's medical review
	    Kuwabara said he had maintained goat fetuses for up to three
weeks in a plastic tank, until the end of their incubation
period, but it would be some time before if could be used for
human fetuses.
	    ``Other researchers around the world have managed to
maintain fetuses outside the womb for up to several days but
we're the only ones who have sustained life in an artificial
womb for so long,'' Kuwabara said.
	    The artificial womb is a rectangular clear plastic box
filled with amniotic fluid at body temperature and connected to
an array of devices for vital functions.
	    The fetus lies submerged in the tank womb which replaces
oxygen and cleans the fetus' blood with a dialysis machine
connected to the umbilical cord, he added.
	    Professor Koyo Yoshida, a member of Kuwabara's research
team, said he was wary of exaggerations by the press of a
miracle artificial womb which could free women of the pain of
	    ``Some of the stories printed in the British press are only
half true. We are not trying to extend the possible incubation
period in the artificial womb right now. Three weeks is the
limit with the technology we have now,'' he said.
	    Many of the experimental goat fetuses incubated in the
artificial womb only survived for a few days after being taken
out of the tank although some remained alive for much longer, he
	    ``The next step is to see how the fetus develops after it
has been taken out of the artificial womb,'' Kuwabara said.
	    Although his team has experimented for over 10 years, it was
still early to hope for a quick end to miscarriages and
premature baby fatalities through the use of an artificial womb,
he added.