U.S. doctors have been permitted to perform womb transplantation on human patients. This follows the first successful transplant on a non-human primate, a rhesus monkey, last month by a team of researchers from New York and Pittsburgh.
The review board at New York Downtown Hospital has given permission to Dr Giuseppe Del Priore to carryout transplant on people. He even has potential donors lined up, reveals New Scientist magazine.
Women undergoing the transplant would be given the healthy womb from a person who died. The uterus would be connected to the recipient's blood supply and immunosuppressant drugs would be given to avoid graft rejection. Once the recipient has had one or two kids successfully, the womb would be removed and she would be taken off the powerful immunosuppressants.
Dr Del Priore, an assistant professor of gynaecologic oncology, has performed a transplant in a rhesus monkey along with colleagues at Pittsburgh University.
The womb was observed for 20 hours. It had a healthy blood supply and the animal's immune system had accepted the organ under the action of the immunosuppressant drugs.
In spite of critics doubting the technique and wanting more research to be done before performing on humans, Professor Giuseppe Del Priore, of Downtown Hospital, insisted it is now technically possible. 'If a person walked in tomorrow and requested a uterine transplant I am cautiously optimistic we could be successful,' he told New Scientist magazine, published today.
'While the monkey transplant is successful, I plan to ensure the transplanted uterus is able to function properly by following a pregnancy in a rhesus monkey to term, even though this further test is not strictly necessary to prove the safety of the technique in humans,' said Prof Del Priore.
Richard Smith, a gynaecologist at London's Hammersmith Hospital, claimed in September that he would carry out a uterine transplant in 2 years time.
Mats Brannstrom of Gothenburg University, Sweden, who has been working on uterine transplants for six years, says, 'We have to do a lot more animal studies before we go on to humans.' In 2002, his team performed the world's only uterine transplant that that was followed by successful pregnancy in mice.
Womb transplantation was carried out unsuccessfully in 2000 in Saudi Arabia. The uterus had to be removed due to the development of a blood clot in one of the connecting blood vessels.
IVF combined with surrogacy is the only method available at present for a woman without a functioning womb.