Scientists have created a stem cell patch which could repair foetus' membrane and reduce the number of babies born early by up to 40 per cent.
The membrane is a protective layer surrounding the foetus, so any rupture which occurs before the foetus's organs and immune system have fully developed increases the risk of premature death or complications after birth.
It's usually extremely difficult to maintain a pregnancy after the membrane has broken, but doctors in Reading believe their solution is not only viable, but could be available within four years.
Research leader, Dr Che Connon, said: "From just one donation of cells after a birth we will be able to make thousands of patches to help preserve a pregnancy."
He explained that by using keyhole surgery, the patch can be placed over ruptures in the membrane caused by infection.
Over 50,000 babies were born pre-term last year from a number of factors including bleeding in the first trimester, infection, carrying twins, obesity and alcohol abuse.
Babies born less than 24 weeks into pregnancy have a less than 50 per cent chance of survival.
Dr Anna David, a consultant obstetrician and expert in premature birth at University College of London Hospitals Trust, said:
"If we could use these membranes then we would be able to preserve pregnancies and save women from losing their babies."
Posted September 20th, 2011 at 1815 by Richard. Comment by emailing: email@example.com