World's first baby born from transplanted womb of dead donor

Alicia Farmer
December 7, 2018

In a medical first, a mother who received a uterus transplant from a dead donor gave birth to a healthy baby, researchers reported Wednesday.

The first womb transplant baby was born in Sweden in 2013, using her grandmother's uterus, and since then there have been 10 other births. They cite women with inoperable fibroids, or abnormal uterine growths, those who have experienced embryo implantation failure and those who have received pelvic radiation as categories of women who may be able to benefit from uterus transplantation in the future. In this case, a cesarean section was performed for birth at 35 weeks gestation, and along with the delivery of an nearly 6 pound healthy baby girl, the uterus was also removed.

The mother and baby, born through c-section on December 15, 2017, are now cemented in medical history as the first to successfully use a uterus from a deceased donor. A research team at Baylor College of Medicine has shown other organs do not suffer if the uterus is removed first, he says, noting that in the successful transplant he had to wait three hours before getting access to the uterus. Ten previous attempts using deceased donors in the Czech Republic, Turkey and the USA have failed.

But crucially, similar transplants have been done with fetuses which came from a live donor.

"Our results provide a proof-of-concept for a new option for women with uterine infertility", said Dani Ejzenberg, a doctor at the teaching hospital of the University of Sao Paulo.

Both the mum and baby were discharged three days after birth, with an uneventful early follow-up. He added: "The numbers of people willing and committed to donate organs upon their own deaths are far larger than those of live donors, offering a much wider potential donor population".

It said the case involved connecting veins from the donor's uterus with the recipient's veins, as well as linking arteries, ligaments, and vaginal canals.

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Richard Kennedy, president of the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS), said: "The IFFS welcomes this announcement which is an anticipated evolution from live donors with clear advantages and the prospect of increasing supply for women with hitherto untreatable infertility".

"There are still lots of things we don't understand about pregnancies, like how embryos implant", said Dr. Cesar Diaz told USA Today. The team said the baby girl was healthy and developing normally.

But past treatments involving deceased donors failed.

There have been several successful pregnancies using uterus transplants from live donors, since the procedure was pioneered by Swedish doctor Mats Brannstrom about five years ago. The latest birth opens "a path to healthy pregnancy for all women with uterine factor infertility, without need of living donors or live donor surgery", they wrote in the paper.

Although uterus transplants are a growing area of medicine, they remain highly experimental and are very hard surgeries to complete.

In a majority of such cases, the uterus does not survive after transplant in the recipient due to infections or rejection by the body's immune system. The uterus was removed from recipient post that.

"Uterine transplant is a novel technique and should be regarded as experimental", he said. "It is also a source of hope for those patients who [do not have a uterus] or who have lost it unexpectedly and do not have a family member or close friend to donate the uterus".

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