IVF for womb transplant woman gives hope to British women
Tuesday 01 January 2013
British women born without a womb will be given fresh hope this year when scientists attempt to help the woman who had the world's first successful womb transplant to conceive a baby.
Just over a year ago Turkish scientists successfully transplanted the organ and are hoping to start IVF treatment in April or May.
If the breakthrough treatment succeeds, British researchers planning to replicate the same results will become a step closer to achieving their goal.
A successful pregnancy helped along by the pioneering Turkish team will help the London-based doctors get approval from ethics committees to conduct the innovative procedure.
Medics in Sweden have also performed four uterus transplants, including the first ever mother-to-daughter womb transplant.
Richard Smith, a consultant gynaecological surgeon, said the British team hopes to conduct the first operation in the UK before the end of 2014.
"The Turkish team transplanted a woman just over a year ago and intend to do an embryo transfer in April/May time," said Mr Smith who helped set up a charity to raise money to enable the first five operations in the UK.
"The Swedes have done four transplants in the last two or three months and all of their live donors are well and the recipients are well and are doing as one would expect.
"They are waiting for a year before they do any embryo transfers."
Earlier this year, his team achieved a successful pregnancy in a rabbit with a transplanted uterus, though the animal went on to miscarry.
He said that before the medics can approach local ethics committees they need to produce data concerning a pregnancy in a woman who has already undergone the procedure and results from animal models.
While the science-side of the project is coming on in leaps and bounds, the monetary aspect is not coming along so well.
The charity, Uterine Transplantation UK, needs to raise funds to complete the preparatory work, conduct the transplants and pay for the other associated costs such as immunosuppressant therapy for the women while the uteruses are in their bodies.
Medics hope the transplants could help women have a child - or even two - before the donated womb is then removed. This means the recipient would only have to take immunosuppressant drugs, which make their bodies accept the transplant, for a limited period.
So far, the charity has raised £30,000 but a further £470,000 is needed, Mr Smith said.
Womb transplants offer an alternative to surrogacy or adoption for women whose own wombs have been damaged by diseases such as cervical cancer.
Every year 14,000 British women discover they are infertile because either they were born without a viable womb or they have undergone a hysterectomy following a serious illness.
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