For the very first time, a baby has been born following a uterus transplant from a deceased donor, as reported today in the medical journal The Lancet. With live donors often in short supply, it’s hoped this bold breakthrough from Brazil could offer hope to the 1 in 500 people who experience infertility problems from uterine anomalies.
The healthy baby girl was born via cesarean section at Hospital das Clínicas, at the University of São Paulo School of Medicine, after her mother underwent a uterine transplant followed by an In vitro fertilization (IVF) pregnancy just seven months later.
The mother, a 32-year-old woman, was born without a uterus due to Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, a condition affecting one in 4,500 women. She received the uterus during a 10.5-hour surgery in September 2016 from a 45-year-old donor who had died of a stroke. In the same procedure as the live birth, the uterine was removed to curb any chance of issues with rejection.
It’s still early days, but so far, there are no complaints. The mother and child managed to leave the hospital just three days after the birth, with a gloriously uneventful following few months.
“The use of deceased donors could greatly broaden access to this treatment, and our results provide proof-of-concept for a new option for women with uterine infertility,” said lead author Dr Dani Ejzenberg, Hospital das Clínicas at the University of São Paulo School of Medicine.
“We are authorized to do two more cases and we are focused on improving our protocol to be able to repeat this success story,” Natalie Ehrmann Fusco, a spokesperson for the doctors on the project, told IFLScience.
Eleven children have been born following uterine transplantation from living donors, the first of which occurred in Sweden in September 2013. There have been previous attempts to birth a child using a transplanted uterus from a deceased donor, however, all have proved unsuccessful. This case, the researchers claim, is the first time it’s been successfully pulled off.
As if this new case study is not impressive enough, it is also the first uterine transplantation of any kind to take place in Latin America.
The downside of this surgery was high doses of immunosuppression drugs and moderate, although manageable, levels of blood loss. On the other hand, the researchers state that transplants from deceased donors might have some benefits over donations from live donors. Most obviously, doctors do not have to worry about the donor’s heath. They also note that it could potentially make uterus transplants more widely available, especially in countries that already regulate and distribute organ donations from deceased donors.
“The first uterus transplants from live donors were a medical milestone,” added Dr Ejzenberg. “However, the need for a live donor is a major limitation as donors are rare, typically being willing and eligible family members or close friends. 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.”