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First uterus transplants from living donors carried out in the US

10 October 2016
Appeared in BioNews 872

Four women in the USA have become the first in the country to receive uteruses transplanted from living donors.

While three of the women have since had their transplants removed due to a lack of blood flow, surgeons and researchers at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas are hopeful that the fourth woman might go on to have a successful pregnancy.

Dr Giuliano Testa, who is the lead surgeon and chief of abdominal transplantation at Baylor, acknowledged that although disappointing, the results so far show 'tremendous progress'.

He said: 'If you look at this from the science [perspective], it's something we've learned a lot from and we have a patient who is doing well. This is the beginning of hopefully a great history for medicine.'

All four of the women who received the transplants have a condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome and were born without a uterus, or with an underdeveloped uterus. The living donors were all altruistic donors, meaning they did not know the recipients, nor did they receive payment in return for making the donation.

Dr Testa and his team estimate that it takes about three months to resume normal daily activity after a successful uterus transplant, and that IVF can be attempted six to twelve months post-operatively. Since transplanted uteruses are not connected to a woman's ovaries, IVF is required in order to become pregnant.

The first ever successful uterus transplants using living donors were completed in Sweden in 2014, with five out of nine women treated there going on to have healthy babies (see BioNews 775). Members of the Sahlgrenska University Hospital team in Gothenburg who carried out the successful Swedish transplants worked alongside the Baylor team as they performed the transplants in Texas.

'We have to collaborate with other teams around the world and share our knowledge,' Dr Liza Johannesson, one of the team from Sahlgrenska told Time magazine. 'If no one can repeat it, it's not worth anything. We owe it to the patients to be open,' she added.

In the UK, Dr Richard Smith and his team have been given ethics approval to perform uterus transplants from deceased donors (see BioNews 823), although no operations have been reported to date. 

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