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Womb Transplant Makes Medical History

Surgeon Mats Brannstrom, a Swedish doctor, has made medical history after the first baby was born following a womb transplant. Dr Brannstrom has performed nine clinical trial operations on women born without wombs. He is hoping to take his research one step further and grow a womb in his lab. 

Dr Brannstrom says his research is still in the early stages, but he envisions growing a live functioning womb. The donated wombs would come from organ donors. After, he would strip the wombs of their cell. This would leave a living framework that the doctor could coat with master cells and stem cell from his patient. The doctor would then grow the womb in his lab and transplant it into his patient.

Dr Brannstrom says that the womb would be an exact match because it was grown from the woman’s own cells. Therefore, the patient wouldn’t need to take the potentially dangerous drug immunosuppressant. The doctor has spent 15 years perfecting the surgical technique needed to transplant a womb.

The pioneering project at Gothenburg University selected nine women to receive their mother’s womb. The woman who gave birth a month ago received her donated womb from a close family friend. Seven of the nine transplants were successful and three women became pregnant. Two of the three women are due to deliver their babies in a few weeks. The doctor is predicting that six of the seven women will become mothers. 

Specialists in Boston believe that womb transplants won’t become common practice in the near future. Doctors in the United States also believe that the success of the womb transplants can open new and exciting avenues for exploration. However, doctors say there’s a complex ethical and legal consideration to consider in transplanting a womb from one woman into another. Furthermore, insurance companies won’t likely pay for this high cost procedure to transplant a womb. However, women in the United States have a much safer and less expensive option for having a baby. Although doctors still believe this procedure is still in the early developmental stages.

Dr Brannstrom is hoping that his womb transplant breakthrough will help further medical research in China, Japan, Britain, the United States, and Australia. However, Toth at MGH feels that the birth in Sweden was exciting, but one birth won’t popularize such a controversial and difficult procedure. Before this procedure becomes common practice doctors will have to consider the safety of the donor. Using a live donor, the donor will have to undergo a hysterectomy that would remove a larger part of the tissue surrounding the uterus. The surrounding tissue would be used to connect the tissues with the recipient. 

What doctors fear most is the major abdominal surgery that could cause extensive bleeding or injury to the bowel or the uterus. The results of the surgery could cause an infection which later develops into sepsis. Furthermore, there would be risks to the recipient that would require ongoing treatment with immunosuppressant. The treatment ensures the body doesn’t reject the transplanted organ. However, the ongoing treatment increases the patient’s risk of cancer. 

Doctors also worry about the fetus in the transplanted womb. The fetus would be in danger and risk of being rejected from the transplanted organ. Furthermore, the difficulties surgeons would have to connect the complex blood vessels that support the uterus. A transplanted womb could affect the formation of the new placenta.

Image: flickr.com

Julie Sinclair

Julie Sinclair

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