idw – Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Nachrichten, Termine, Experten

Grafik: idw-Logo
Thema Corona

Science Video Project
idw-News App:


Share on: 
06/05/2014 10:55

Artificial "womb" – textile therapy for premature babies

Andrea Höra Unternehmenskommunikation und Forschungsmarketing
Hohenstein Institute

    Scientists at the Hohenstein Institute are working with Beluga-Tauchsport GmbH and M. Zellner GmbH to develop an "artificial uterus" providing sensory therapy for premature babies

    BÖNNIGHEIM (cb/ri) About 50,000 babies are born prematurely in Germany every year. Some of them need intensive medical care in incubators for weeks or even months. However, it has been known for some time that these premature babies miss the spatial confinement and prenatal sensory stimuli of the womb (uterus). This lack can have significant consequences for these babies later on: many of the children go on to suffer from sensory or motor deficiencies as they develop, which have to be treated. Now, a textile "artificial uterus" is to be produced that is intended to recreate the environment and sensory stimulation of a mother's womb in the incubator. To simulate the same sensations, scientists at the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim are working on a research project (ZIM project KF2136730KJ3) to develop an "artificial uterus" that will provide sensory stimulation for premature babies.

    The specifications for a medical product of this kind are demanding. Firstly, the material properties of the textile, such as its feel, elasticity and resistance, must simulate conditions in the womb as realistically as possible. The best combination of fibre and fabric structure must be chosen. The artificial uterus will also incorporate a mechanical textile actuator to provide the sensory and motor stimuli and sensation of equilibrium that will promote the development of the infant's brain. These earliest perceptions affect the whole of a person's subsequent life and are enormously important for the sensory-motor development of children born prematurely. From the medical point of view, these sensory impressions from the uterus should be provided to the baby immediately after its premature birth. Children born too early often find it hard to judge spatial distance, control their muscle tension or perform complex sequences of movements. The researchers are even going a step further in their project and incorporating the mother's heartbeat into the artificial uterus. It is well-known that the mother's voice and heartbeat have a soothing effect on the newborn child and also stimulate its development. There are currently no medical products available on the market that allow sensory integration therapy in baby incubators. The artificial uterus is therefore the first textile "therapist" of its kind, because until now incubators have only provided a constant temperature, the necessary humidity and a controlled oxygen supply.

    With this "smart textile", the researchers from the Hohenstein department of Hygiene, Environment & Medicine are for the first time taking a new approach to treatments to prevent problems with the sensory-motor development of premature babies. To put the product concept into practice, the researchers, led by Prof. Dr. Dirk Höfer, are working with partners from industry, Beluga-Tauchsport GmbH (Scheeßel) and M. Zellner GmbH (Michelau in Upper Franconia). It is expected that the project, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Industry, will result in the first prototype of an artificial uterus with motor and acoustic textile actuators being produced as early as next year, ready to be tested in practice by neonatal doctors specialising in the treatment of premature babies.

    More information:

    attachment icon pr_568_06_Sensorische_Intergration_EN_2014

    Criteria of this press release:
    Journalists, Scientists and scholars
    Medicine, Nutrition / healthcare / nursing
    transregional, national
    Research projects, Research results

    Until now, the spatial confinement and sensory stimuli that they miss from the uterus have not been available in incubators, meaning that important treatment time is lost.

    For download


    Scientists at the Hohenstein Institute are working with project partners from industry to develop a system providing this kind of therapy.

    For download



    Search / advanced search of the idw archives
    Combination of search terms

    You can combine search terms with and, or and/or not, e.g. Philo not logy.


    You can use brackets to separate combinations from each other, e.g. (Philo not logy) or (Psycho and logy).


    Coherent groups of words will be located as complete phrases if you put them into quotation marks, e.g. “Federal Republic of Germany”.

    Selection criteria

    You can also use the advanced search without entering search terms. It will then follow the criteria you have selected (e.g. country or subject area).

    If you have not selected any criteria in a given category, the entire category will be searched (e.g. all subject areas or all countries).