September 19, 2012
Swedish Doctors Perform First Mother-Daughter Uterus Transplant
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Surgeons at the University of Gothenburg recently revealed that they were able to perform the world´s first mother-to-daughter uterus transplants, allowing two Swedish women to potentially become pregnant after the operation.
According to an report in the Wall Street Journal, the surgery was performed over the weekend. The specialists who performed the operation believe that there were no complications, but the surgery won´t be considered successful until both females have given birth to healthy babies.
"That's the best proof," noted Michael Olausson, one of the surgeons, in the Wall Street Journal article.
Both the women are in their 30s, according to the Wall Street Journal, and will be observed for about a year before doctors try to help them become pregnant with the help of in-vitro fertilization, where embryos composed of the female´s eggs will be placed in their wombs. Each had different situations that make it complicated to conceive. One patient´s uterus was removed several years prior due to cervical cancer, while the other participant was born without a womb.
"The donating mothers are up and walking and will be discharged from the hospital within a few days," lead researcher Mats Brannstrom, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Goteborg, told the BBC.
Past research has also focused on the transplantation of wombs in women. Last year, Turkish doctors completed a successful uterine transplant, in which the womb from a deceased woman was given to a young female. In 2000, doctors in Saudi Arabia completed a uterine transplant operation but had to remove it after three months due to a blood clot.
Fertility experts believe that the Swedish uterus transplants are steps in the right direction, but they won´t be considered successful until after the women become pregnant. Researchers are unclear as to the demand for the womb transplant option, as there are a number of possible risks to the operation. Because the current case involved a transplant between family members, doctors believe that the chances of success are particularly high.
"There's no doubt this will be a pioneering step if it's been successful," commented Scott Nelson, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Glasgow, in the Wall Street Journal article.
"At present, the only option for these women is to have a surrogacy – i.e., having their embryos implanted into another woman."
The scientists explained that the donated womb will not include all the original blood vessels, which could possibly complicate a baby´s development.
"Pre-term birth is a major risk – i.e., a small baby being born. That's what you'd mainly be worried about," continued Nelson.
The wombs can only be used for two pregnancies, after which they will be removed to allow the patients to stop taking the drugs. The drugs have side effects that include high blood pressure, diabetes, swelling and increased risk for particular types of cancer. Some medical experts indicated concern over the affect of the immune-suppressing drugs on the fetus.
"Some people will always be willing to take the risk, but there are issues that need to be addressed before you expose a fetus to these medicines," explained James Grifo, a New York University infertility expert. "The group of patients that would need this is so small we decided to focus our efforts elsewhere.”
The AFP reports that an additional eight females are planning to have the operation in Sweden in the upcoming fall and spring. The Swedish Central Ethical Review Board originally stopped the research team from continuing the project. However, the group was given the rights to continue in May if they allowed a special committee to monitor the study.