In Brief
  • Successful uterine transplants can help the 1 in 4,500 newborn girls impacted by a rare condition where they are born without a uterus.
  • Further development of the procedure will give countless women the chance to have children.

A LANDMARK OPERATION

The field of medicine, particularly surgery, has indeed come so far. Surgeons at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, have performed four uterus transplants. According to Time magazine, these operations, which used organs from living donors, marked a first in the US.

During the procedure, the uterus, as well as a part of the vagina, were taken from a living donor and transferred to the recipient. The surgeons then connected blood vessels to it, giving blood supply and allowing the body to acclimate itself to the newly attached organ.

As in all transplants, not all cases were successful; out of the four, three have since failed. Because the uteruses were receiving insufficient blood flow, they had to be removed.

In the interview with Time, lead surgeon Giuliano Testa said, “This is the way we advance, from learning from our mistakes.”

On the other hand, the remaining case seems to be faring better. The surgical team expressed their optimism for the transplant’s success, according to a statement released by Baylor.

Photo credit: Shannon Faulk—Baylor University Medical Center
Photo credit: Shannon Faulk—Baylor University Medical Center

SWITCHED FOR BIRTH

The perfection of this procedure could result in major benefits. It could give women with a damaged uterus, those who have had theirs removed, or even those born without one (a condition called the Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, which the four Texas cases had) the chance to bear children. This, however, would involve the egg being fertilized outside of the body and implanted into the new uterus (in vitro fertilization). And since the transplanted uterus will not be as durable as a natural one, the baby would have to be delivered via C-section.

Further good news, is that similar operations have been performed in Sweden, with some women who underwent the transplant going on to have successfully had children.

Though still highly experimental, and possibly very financially costly, further developments in this area promise to achieve the previously unattainable: childbearing—a truly miraculous development to those who really want to, but can’t.