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World's first mother-to-daughter womb transplants

24 September 2012
Appeared in BioNews 674

Two women in Sweden received uterus transplants from their mothers, with hopes it will allow them to conceive children of their own.

A team of ten surgeons completed the first mother-to-daughter womb transplants, which each took seven hours, at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Professor Mats Brannstrom, who led the surgery, issued a statement saying: 'Both patients that received new uteri are doing fine but are tired after surgery. The donating mothers are up and walking and will be discharged from the hospital within a few days'.

The women, aged 32 and 37 years, both lacked a uterus for different reasons; one woman had hers removed due to cervical cancer and the other was born without one. The women were able to release eggs from their ovaries and had IVF treatment prior to the transplants.

Their embryos were cryopreserved, so that a year after receiving the womb transplants from their mothers, they can begin attempts at becoming pregnant. If successful it will be the first time a mother and child will have grown in the same uterus. The women will each be allowed to have two pregnancies, after which the wombs will be removed.

Women stop producing eggs around the age of 50 but their wombs remain viable for at least ten years afterward. It is believed the womb remains healthy enough to bear children during this time. Since the wombs used in these transplants are from the mothers of the patients, it is thought they are less likely to be rejected. Doctors plan to slowly wean the women off immunosuppressant drugs, designed to prevent rejection, over the coming year, before attempting to implant the embryos produced by IVF.

Professor Michael Olausson, one of the surgeons, said: 'We are not going to call it a complete success until this results in children'.

Over the next several months, eight more uterus transplants are planned, with seven wombs coming from mothers of the patients and one from an older sister. These transplants will provide the women with the possibility of conceiving their own children without using a surrogate mother, which is currently illegal in Sweden.

Dr Gedis Grudzinskas, an expert in gynaecology and infertility who was not involved in the transplants, told the Daily Mail: 'This is a potential advance for a small group of women but I am cautious about how widespread the implications will be. Applicability is limited'.

The transplants were initially stopped by Sweden’s Central Ethical Review Board, but in May were allowed to proceed, provided a special committee was first established to monitor this new area of research.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Doctors perfom world's first uterus transplant between a mother and her daughter
Mail Online |  18 September 2012
Mother-to-daughter womb transplant 'success' in Sweden
BBC News |  18 September 2012
Swedish women have world's first mother-to-daughter uterus transplants
Independent |  19 September 2012
World's first mum-to-daughter uterine transplants in Sweden
Medical Express |  18 September 2012
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