A little over a year ago a small group of women with uterine-factor infertility experienced groundbreaking surgeries. With the generous assistance of a set of matched live organ donors, these nine women underwent surgical uterine transplants. After six months, seven of the nine women were considered successful with healthy, viable uteri (as evidenced by regular monthly cycles and no major organ rejection). The international research team at the helm of this
study, based at Sahlgrenska University hospital in Sweden, are optimistic about the next phase of this research. If these women's transplants remain successful after one more year (18 months post transplant), they will move on to the next phase of this amazing research: the women will attempt to get pregnant via IVF.
Before this study only a handful of human uterine transplants had been attempted; however, none have been able to produce a viable pregnancy. Professor Mats Brännström, researcher at the University of Gothenburg and the lead investigator in this study is hopeful about the next phase of this current research. "The prospects for success are good. On average, the women started menstruating about two months after the transplant, and we followed up on the women twice a week during the first month after the procedure, then once a week for two months and after that every other week. We found and treated a few mild cases of transplant rejection, but after six months, the immunosuppression could be reduced to relatively low levels in most cases and today all women are doing well and have returned to work."
Although it will be months before there are further results, the study thus far yields a promising start. The research team has performed a significant number of animal-based transplants in rodents, large animals and primates and hope to extend their success to the women in this trial. Thus far the research has established relatively low levels of risk to both the donors as well as the transplant recipients; successful live births subsequent to the transplants would be an unprecedented success and would open the door to more treatments options for women living with infertility.
The following presentation is from the 17th Annual Congress on Controversies in Obstetrics, Gynecology & Infertility (COGI) which took place in Lisbon in late 2012. In this video, Dr. Brännström summarizes the current state of the research and practice of uterine transplants worldwide.
Brännström, Mats et al. (2014) First clinical uterus transplantation trial: a six-month report. Fertility and Sterility, 101(5) , 1228 - 1236
Next Step In Live-Donor Uterus Transplant Project. March 3, 2014. University of Gothenburg.
Photo of Dr. Brännström courtesy of the University of Gothenburg