Uterus transplants on the horizon
Dr Kirsty Horsey
Progress Educational Trust
03 July 2003
Scientists from the Sahlgrenska Academy at Goteborg University in Sweden have announced that they have successfully achieved births from mice that had undergone uterus transplants. The research was reported at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) annual conference in Madrid, Spain, and follows an earlier report of successful pregnancies in mice in August 2002. The researchers hope that the technique may be able to be developed for use in humans, for example in women who are born without a uterus or who have had it surgically removed after cancer, infection or emergency operations. They believe that it would have advantages over adoption or surrogacy, the only ways a woman without a uterus could currently have a child, because 'with transplantation, the mother will be the social mother, the gestational mother and the genetic mother'.
Dr Mats Brannstrom and his colleagues transplanted uteruses into 12 mice that were 99 per cent genetically identical to the donors, placing them alongside their existing uteruses in order to compare them. Later, up to six embryos were implanted into each uterus. According to the research team, the number of pregnancies achieved in the transplanted uteruses was comparable to that which would be achieved normally, and the mice that were born from the transplants developed as well as any other mice, some of them going on to mate and have pups naturally. 'These are the first true uterus transplants to produce live births', Dr Brannstrom said.
Further uteruses were transplanted into other mice that were not genetically matched, but these were rejected after a week. Dr Brannstrom suggested that, if the technique is to be used in humans, the risk of rejection could be minimised by transplanting uteruses from close family members, although immunosuppressant drugs would still need to be taken. But, following further research on mice and pigs, Dr Brannstrom said that research will begin in humans. 'We hope to do this in two to three years', he said.
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Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.
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