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New York doctors given go-ahead to attempt womb transplants

12 November 2006
Appeared in BioNews 384

A surgeon in New York has been given the go-ahead to carry out a womb transplant. The procedure has been tried once before in humans in Saudi Arabia in 2000, but the organ had to be removed after 100 days when a blood clot formed in the connecting blood vessels. Now, Dr Giuseppe Del Priore has received approval to carry out the procedure by the review board of New York Downtown Hospital. Del Priore recently carried out an apparently successful transplant on a rhesus monkey although the organ was only monitored for a short time and the animal did not become pregnant. Thousands of women lack a functioning uterus through genetic conditions, fibroids or through pregnancy-related problems. Dr Del Priore is said to have donors and recipients lined up for the new procedure.

Other experts are concerned that more extensive work needs to be done on uterine transplants in primates before the procedure should be attempted in women. Transplants from unrelated donors need to be accompanied by strong drugs to suppress the immune response to the alien material; it is not known what effect these drugs would have on a developing fetus. Further complications are envisaged due to the complex blood vessels that supply the uterus and the dramatic growth that occurs in pregnancy. Del Priore argues that other procedures have been carried out without prior testing in primate systems, such as the recent face transplant that took place in France. Professor Mats Brannstrom of Gothenburg University carried out the first womb transplant that led to a successful pregnancy in mice. Brannstrom believes that further work needs to be done to optimise the technique before beginning to work on humans. His team are developing the possibility of live donor transplants in order that a close genetic match could be found; this would reduce the need for immune suppressants.

Del Priore believes that by transferring more original blood vessels with the donated uterus and by using cadaveric tissue the problems with blood clots could be minimised. Using a dead donor whose heart is still beating would allow higher doses of anti-clotting drugs to be used when the organ is removed. Currently women without a functional uterus can only have children using a combination of IVF technology and surrogacy to carry the child. Speaking to the magazine New Scientist, Del Priore said that 'if a person walked in tomorrow and requested a uterine transplant, I am cautiously optimistic that we could be successful'.

New York doctor given go-ahead for world's first womb transplant
The Evening Standard |  8 November 2006
Surgeons ready to perform first womb transplant
The Times |  9 November 2006
Uterus transplant could be tomorrow
New Scientist |  11 November 2006
Uterus transplant on human soon say US surgeons
The Scotsman |  9 November 2006
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....
11 September 2006 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Doctors at Hammersmith Hospital, London, aim to carry out the first successful womb transplant within two years, reported the Evening Standard. Doctors say that the womb would be taken from a dead donor and will only remain in the recipient for two or three years, or until...
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...
27 August 2002 - by BioNews 
Scientists from Goteborg University in Sweden have announced that they have successfully achieved pregnancies in mice that had undergone uterus transplants. The research is reported in the Journal of Endocrinology. Dr Mats Brannstrom and his colleagues transplanted uteruses into other mice, placing them alongside their existing uteruses in order to...
11 March 2002 - by BioNews 
Doctors in Saudi Arabia reported last week that they had performed the world's first human uterus transplant, raising hopes for childless couples whose only chance of a baby might be to use a surrogate. The operation was regarded by the doctors as successful and 'encouraging', despite the fact that complications...
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