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Uterus transplant a 'success' in Sweden

18th September 2012

Sweden's Gothenburg University has announced it has carried out the world's first mother-to-daughter uterine transplants, in a bid to enable two women to have babies.

pregnancy

Two women, both in their 30s, received womb transplants at the weekend in operations involving more than 10 surgeons.

One of the women had her own uterus removed after treatment for cervical cancer, while the other was born without one.

The operations were successful, and were completed without any complications, the university said in a statement.

Womb transplants are fairly new to medicine. Doctors in Turkey carried out the first recorded operation in 2011.

According to research team leader Mats Braennstroem, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the university, the women who received the uteruses are doing well but were tired after the surgery.

He said their mothers, who were the donors, were already up and walking about, and would be discharged within a few days.

He told reporters, however, that the two younger women should wait a year before trying to conceive, and that they would need to go through an in vitro fertilization (IVF) process using frozen embryos which were fertilised before the transplants took place.

The embryos were the result of the women's own eggs fertilised with their partner's sperm, but the ultimate success of the operations would only truly be known in 2014, if the women were able to have a baby by then.

Both women were taking immunosuppressant medication to stop their bodies from rejecting the uteruses. They could potentially have up to two children, but then their uteruses would need to be removed again, Braennstroem said.

He said regular IVF programmes typically had a 25-30% success rate after an embryo transfer.

The risk of rejection was similar to that seen in other organ transplant procedures, according to Braennstroem's fellow research doctor Michael Olausson.

The women were chosen for the pioneering treatment following a lengthy examination process and after confirmation that they and their partners were otherwise capable of conceiving.

Theoretically, close relatives make safer donors, and both of the donated uteruses had the proven ability to carry a baby to term.

Doctors will perform the same operation, which is aimed at helping younger women who were either born without a uterus, or whose wombs are damaged, on a further eight women over the next six months.

It was not aimed at helping women who wished to conceive later in life, and all the candidates for the operation are in their 30s or younger, because the procedure has a higher chance of success in younger women, Braennstroem added.

Around 20 scientists, doctors and specialists have been working on the project since 1999. They began by conducting successful uterine transplants on animals, including mice and primates, that led to live births.

Because they involve living donors, uterine transplants are seen as controversial, and the Gothenburg project was only given the go-ahead by Sweden's ethics review board after a special monitoring committee was set up to oversee it.


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