Womb transplants may be a reality in as little as two years. A group of doctors and vets in London (working with teams in New York and Budapest) have performed a successful womb transplant in a rabbit. If transplants on larger animals are also successful, the first uterus transplant in a woman could take place within two years. The surgery could offer an alternative solution to women who are unable to bear children for any number of reasons.
Although there have been attempts at womb transplants in the past, the first womb transplant took place in 2000 in a 26-year-old woman in Saudi Arabia failed due to blood supply issues. The recent study involved five donor rabbits with two living up to 10 months after the transplant and dying of unrelated causes. The success in the rabbits can be attributed to a new technique that establishes better blood supply referred to as “vascular patch technique.” This technique connects major blood vessels, including the aorta.
The two surviving rabbits were mated but did not become pregnant naturally, meaning the logical next step in this study is to create pregnancies using in vitro fertilization (IVF). In addition to IVF, cesarean sections would also be necessary to avoid any potential complications during birth.
Although many are excited about the outcome of this study, Tony Rutherford, chairman of the British Fertility Society believes there is “a big difference between demonstrating effectiveness in a rabbit and being able to do this in a larger animal or a human”.