Womb transplants may be the latest in infertility treatments

According to a prominent scientist, women could soon have another option when it comes to beating infertility: womb transplants.

Mats Brannstrom of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden has spent more than 10 years working on making such a transplant possible. In a study published last month in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research, Brannstrom wrote: "Uterus transplantation has been proven to be a feasible procedure in different experimentation animal models with proof of concept concerning surgery, control of rejection and fertility." Translation: His team has been able to implant donated wombs in mice, rats, sheep, and pigs, and hope that the process can be used to help women who suffer from permanent infertility.

The Daily Mail reports that a British team from Hammersmith Hospital in London has also been working on uterus transplants and have successfully done them in rabbits. The only womb transplant attempted on a human took place in Saudi Arabia in 2000; the transplanted organ failed after just four months. Both British and Swedish researchers think this may be because the donor uterus is difficult to connect to a patient's blood supply.

Transplanted wombs would have to be removed after one or two pregnancies, researchers say, because the large amounts of immunosupressant drugs the patient must take in order to avoid rejecting the new organ could be very damaging. The patient would probably need to use IVF to become pregnant and would have to deliver via Caesarean section.

And then there's the question of where to get the donor wombs. The Daily Mail says that doctors think a living donor, like a sister or the patient's mother, would be a viable option; others say the only way to get an organ with enough blood vessels to make it through a successful pregnancy would be to get the uterus from a donor who is deceased.

"We predict that the first successful uterus transplantation attempt will come within 2-3 years," Brannstrom writes in the study.

What do you think? With gestational surrogacy already an accepted option, is a womb transplant the next reasonable step, or does it go too far?

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