A woman in Texas has become the first person in the USA to give birth after receiving a uterus transplant.
The anonymous patient has a genetic condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome. Born without a uterus, she was unable to carry a child without medical intervention. Doctors at Baylor University Medical Centre in Dallas managed to successfully transplant a donor uterus into her body to allow her to conceive through IVF.
Originally pioneered in Sweden several years ago, the transplant procedure involves removing a healthy uterus from a living volunteer or recently deceased donor. The donated tissue is then used to replace the absent uterus.
Doctors at Baylor have been running a study attempting to replicate the procedure in US patients. So far four women have received transplants at Baylor (see BioNews 872), but this is the first to successfully result in pregnancy. The other three transplanted uteruses had to be removed due to insufficient blood flow.
One of the Swedish doctors involved in the study, Dr Liza Johannesson, told NPR: 'For the recipient, the transplant itself takes about five hours... Then after you have the transplant, you don't have an immediate success. First you have to know the uterus is staying with the recipient.'
The transplants themselves are meant to be temporary, as they require the patient to take powerful immunosuppressant drugs to prevent rejection. Once doctors are certain the transplant will not be rejected, the women are impregnated through IVF. After a woman successfully carries a child to term, the transplanted tissue can be removed.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine also issued a statement calling the birth in Texas 'another important milestone in the history of reproductive medicine'. So far only around 16 uterus transplants have been performed worldwide, including some that failed to produce successful pregnancies. However, last month Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, announced a clinical trial offering uterus transplants.
It’s hoped that one day the procedure may also be able to help women with uteruses damaged by cancer, infectious diseases or previous childbirths.