A charity has been launched to raise money for research that could allow the first womb transplants in the UK.
Uterine Transplantation UK was set up by a team of British surgeons who say they need £500,000 to finish testing the procedure. Only after tests in animals have been completed will they be able to apply for ethics permission to perform the surgery in patients.
Womb transplantation offers an alternative to surrogacy or adoption for thousands of women who are either born without a womb or have theirs removed due to birthing complications, cancer or other diseases.
A previous attempt at this surgery in 2000 failed because of a problem in the blood supply to the transplanted uterus. However, several improvements to the technique have been made and last August a 21-year old woman in Turkey became the first successful recipient of a womb transplant.
'We are confident, especially with a transplant abroad being carried out with the same methodology that we have recommended that within two years or so, given enough funding, we can begin helping women in the UK', said Mr Richard Smith, a consultant gynaecologist from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the Lister Hospital.
However, the surgery would not be without risk. The woman may be at increased risk of complications in pregnancy, including miscarriage, and it is not yet clear whether there could be adverse effects on the development of the implanted embryo. Like any transplant, the recipient will also need to remain on immunosuppressant medication to prevent rejection. To avoid long-term effects, the womb would need to be removed after one or two pregnancies.
Womb transplantation is not a
life-saving operation, so some question whether such risks are justified. Professor
Lord Robert Winston has said previously that the risks are not worth taking and
some women may have to accept that, unless they adopt, they will never become mothers. 'There are some people
who are not going to have a child and sad though that is, that has to be seen',
Professor Charles Kingsland, spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: 'Significant concerns need to be addressed to everybody's satisfaction before we go ahead and offer this as a viable option'.