A hospital in India is preparing this week to conduct the country’s first ever womb transplant.
A team comprised of 12 gynaecologists, endocrinologists and IVF specialists from the Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute (GCLI) in Pune will conduct the surgery on 18 May. Two additional womb transplants have also been scheduled for 19 May and another later in June.
The patient in question is a 26-year old woman with uterine scarring as a result of four abortions and two stillbirths. She will receive the donor womb from her mother.
While the GCLI has been granted a licence by the Directorate of Health Services in Maharashtra to perform womb transplantation surgeries for the next five years, another team from the Milann Fertility Centre in Bengaluru is set to perform two womb transplant surgeries in June also.
The Milann team says it has received approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which the GLCI team has not. The Milann group will be supervised by the Swedish team who performed the world's first womb transplants (see BioNews 674).
Indian protocol dictates that if a procedure is experimental, it requires ICMR approval, but if it is not and is considered a standard patient treatment, it requires approval by the state authority.
Dr Shailesh Puntambekar, medical director of GCLI, told news outlet DNA India: '[Milann] probably did not get permission from the state authority, which is why they had to approach ICMR. They are getting a team from Sweden while we are doing it on [our] own since we are competent.'
However, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, the director-general at ICMR countered: 'As this is an experimental procedure, it should be done under a research protocol. [GCLI] appear to be going ahead with it as a patient treatment with approval from local health authorities. ICMR does not have the mandate to interfere at this stage.'
The team from GCLI has spent time in Sweden, Germany and the USA observing the technique and practising the surgery on human cadavers. The specialists' additional experience may have given GCLI grounds to apply for state approval, as the Human Organ Transplant Act requires a minimum requirement in experience to carry out this procedure.
The patient will be monitored closely for approximately six months and, dependent on her recovery and health, she will undergo an IVF (in vitro fertilisation) procedure to conceive.