The first artificial womb capable of gestating a human baby will get one step closer to reality next week — a key scientific milestone that could offer hope for the thousands of extremely premature babies born in the U.S. each year.

The artificial placentas are fluid-filled pods intended to help struggling prematurely born infants develop much like they would in the prenatal environment. Next week, Food and Drug Administration officials will weigh in on the safety and efficacy of the devices, as well as ethical considerations for the first-in-human studies. Part of it will be held behind closed doors, to protect trade secrets.

"This would potentially be revolutionary to neonatal care,” said George Mychaliska, a pediatric fetal surgeon and researcher at the University of Michigan.