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Sheep womb transplant success

26 June 2006
Appeared in BioNews 364

Swedish scientists have successfully transplanted uteruses in sheep, an achievement that paves the way for women who do not have a womb to bear their own children. The team, based at the Sahlgrenska Academy at Goteborg University, presented the findings at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Prague, Czech Republic. The work follows the group's previous successes with mice, reported three years ago.

In 2003, the researchers transplanted uteruses into 12 mice that were 99 per cent genetically identical to the donors, placing them alongside their existing uteruses in order to compare them. They then implanted embryos into the wombs, and several pups were born as a result. However, when they tried to repeat the procedure with transplants between animals that were not genetically matched, the wombs were rejected.

In the latest research, team leader Dr Mats Brannstrom and his colleagues removed wombs from sheep, and replaced them several hours later. They showed that the organs still worked properly 2-3 months after the transplant operation. Brannstrom says the next step is to try and get the animals pregnant, and then to attempt transplanting a uterus from one sheep to another, using immunosuppressant drugs to prevent rejection. He then wants to test the procedure in primates, and hopes that human womb transplants will be possible in five years time. 'It's not a life-saving operation, its about improving quality of life, so we have to be sure it's a safe procedure', he told Nature News.    

If they can be successfully carried out in humans, uterus transplants could help women who were born without a womb, or those who have lost their womb following surgery - to treat cervical cancer, for example. A womb transplant would have several advantages over surrogacy, according to Brannstrom: 'If you put your embryo in another woman you give up control and you don't know if she might be smoking or taking drugs'. He says that the best donors for womb transplants would be older sisters or mothers, to minimise the chances of rejection. The womb could be removed after having children, so that the recipient did not have to take immunosuppressant drugs for life.

Scientists claim success in ewe uterus transfer
The Guardian |  21 June 2006
Womb transplants 'in five years'
Nature News |  21 June 2006
Womb transplants 'possible in 5 years'
The Daily Telegraph |  21 June 2006
24 September 2012 - by Ruth Retassie 
Two women in Sweden received uterus transplants from their mothers, with hopes it will allow them to conceive children of their own...
20 June 2011 - by MacKenna Roberts 
A British woman has agreed to donate her womb to her daughter if selected for an experimental womb transplant surgery to be performed by doctors at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden....
22 October 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Doctors say the first successful womb transplant may be performed within two years. Research on rabbits has shown that it is possible to transplant a uterus and provide a reliable blood supply so that the organ lasts long enough to enable a pregnancy....
3 July 2003 - by BioNews 
BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Madrid: Scientists from the Sahlgrenska Academy at Goteborg University in Sweden have announced that they have successfully achieved births from mice that had undergone uterus transplants. The research was reported at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual conference in Madrid, Spain, and...
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