First baby born to woman with uterus transplanted from deceased donor

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For the first time, a baby has been born to a woman who received a uterus transplant from a deceased donor, according to Hospital das Clínicas at the University of São Paulo School of Medicine in Brazil.

The Brazilian team followed protocols established by Dr. Mats Brännström and his team at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, where the first successful uterus transplant, that one from a living donor, was performed in 2013. That recipient mother gave birth in 2014.

The donor, a 45-year-old woman who died of a stroke, was deemed a good candidate because she had had three vaginal deliveries during her life, she had no reported sexual disease and her blood type, O-positive, matched that of the recipient.

Dr. Andrew Shennan, a professor of obstetrics at Kings College London, told the Science Media Centre that what is unique about this case is that the pregnancy occurred “in spite of the uterus (womb) being without oxygen for 8 hours before transplant.” In fact, the new study proves that it could remain functional after cold, oxygen-less storage at least four times as long as the average time after live donation: nearly eight hours, versus less than two.

Shennan, who was not involved in either the transplant or the birth, added that this case “opens the possibility of women donating their womb following death, as with many other organs.” And “rather than relying on live donors, a surrogate or adoption,” women who are infertile due to uterine factor infertility might soon have another option.

These transplants have yielded “13 babies born worldwide” via uterus transplants, including the birth documented in the new case study, Brännström said. His own team conducted a series of transplants in multiple women resulting in several live births.

Though the success of uterus transplants has been proven, Brännström said, “it is important that it also works with a deceased donor, with longer ischemic time and less time to investigate the organ.” Ischemic time is the amount of time a donated organ remains chilled and without blood flow. The technique still needs to be “replicated by several teams around the globe” for further validation, he said.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recognizes uterus transplantation as a “successful medical treatment of absolute uterus factor infertility” yet cautions that the procedure is still “highly experimental” in nature. At the time they wrote the study, the authors recorded 10 cadaver uterus transplants attempted or underway in the United States, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

Brännström, though, feels hopeful and believes that future transplants will not only create new life, they will “greatly increase the quality of life for parents and grandparents.”

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Corey Bryant serves as Director of Communications for The Alliance.
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