A charity has been launched to raise
money for research that could allow the first womb transplants in the UK.
Uterine Transplantation UK was set up
by a team of British surgeons who say they need £500,000 to finish testing the
procedure. Only after tests in animals have been completed will they be able
to apply for ethics permission to perform the surgery in patients.
Womb transplantation offers an
alternative to surrogacy or adoption for thousands of women who are either born
without a womb or have theirs removed due to birthing complications, cancer or
A previous attempt at this surgery in
2000 failed because of a problem in the blood supply to the transplanted uterus.
However, several improvements to the technique have been made and
last August a 21-year old woman in Turkey became the first successful recipient
of a womb transplant.
'We are confident, especially with a
transplant abroad being carried out with the same methodology that we have
recommended that within two years or so, given enough funding, we can begin
helping women in the UK', said Mr Richard Smith, a consultant gynaecologist
from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the Lister Hospital.
However, the surgery would not be
without risk. The woman may be at increased risk of complications in
pregnancy, including miscarriage, and it is not yet clear whether there could
be adverse effects on the development of the implanted embryo. Like any transplant, the
recipient will also need to remain on immunosuppressant medication to prevent
rejection. To avoid long-term effects, the womb would need to be removed after
one or two pregnancies.
Womb transplantation is not a
life-saving operation, so some question whether such risks are justified. Professor
Lord Robert Winston has said previously that the risks are not worth taking and
some women may have to accept that, unless they adopt, they will never become mothers. 'There are some people
who are not going to have a child and sad though that is, that has to be seen',
Professor Charles Kingsland, spokesman
for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: 'Significant
concerns need to be addressed to everybody's satisfaction before we go ahead
and offer this as a viable option'.