First Womb Transplants Approved in UK
It has been announced that Imperial College London has been granted ethical approval for the transplant of 10 wombs as part of a clinical trial launching next spring.
This surgery is potentially life changing for thousands of women in the UK who are unable to carry a child due to uterine problems due to disease or cancer treatment, among other things. Until now the only option available for women who wish to have genetic children is surrogacy, but many wish to carry their own child.
Uniquely, to prevent women from suffering health risks associated with immunosuppressant medication that stops their body rejecting the new organ, six months after the birth of their child they will be able to either try for another baby or have the womb removed.
The 6 hour surgery is less of a challenge than finding a suitable donor. Surgeons will be using donors that are clinically brain dead, but will be on a life support machine until organ retrieval, to increase the chances that the uterus is suitable for transplant.
Over 100 years of research has culminated in this surgery. Attempts started in 1896, when Emil Knauer working in a Viennese gynecological clinic documented a sucessful autotransplantation procedure resulting in normal ovarian function in a rabbit.
Uterine transplantation research began in 1918, leading to 1964 when the first autotransplantation of a uterus leading to pregnancy occured in a dog.
The first human uterine transplant was in Sweden in September 2014 using a living donor who had gone through menopause and was a close family member of the recipient. A year after transplant a frozen embryo was implanted, leading to the birth of a healthy baby boy. Since then, several more children in Sweden have been born using this method
If successful, we will see the birth of children as a result of this surgery in late 2017/2018 and it has the potential to revolutionize fertility surgery worldwide.