A team of doctors from the Cleveland Clinic announced this week that they will be giving ten women without a uterus a chance to become pregnant, as they will be part of an experimental series of uterus transplants.
The transplants are part of a study that hopes to help women unable to properly conceive become pregnant, despite not having a uterus, or having a scarred, damaged, or non-functioning uterus. Women may also be considered for this transplant if they had received a hysterectomy.
“Women who are coping with UFI (uterine factor infertility) have few existing options,” said Women’s Health Institute chairman Dr. Tommaso Falcone in a statement. “Although adoption and surrogacy provide opportunities for parenthood, both pose logistical challenges and may not be acceptable due to personal, cultural or legal reasons.”
Uterine transplants are nothing new, as they have been done in Sweden, Turkey, and a few other countries. A Swedish woman had undergone such a transplant thanks to the donation of a family friend, and was able to conceive and give birth last year. A total of five pregnancies and four births have taken place, including the aforementioned event, after nine uterus transplants were carried out in the Swedish study. However, these transplants came from living family or friends of the subjects; the uterus donors in the Cleveland Clinic study are all deceased.
Another key aspect of the U.S. study is that the uterus transplant will be merely a temporary one; the woman’s uterus would eventually be removed, so that she wouldn’t have to be under immune system-suppressing medication for the rest of her life. “Unlike any other transplants, they are ‘ephemeral,’” explained Cleveland Clinic lead investigator Dr. Andreas Tzakis. “They are not intended to last for the duration of the recipient’s life, but will be maintained for only as long as is necessary to produce one or two children.”