Brazil doctors poised for more uterus transplants

Sunday, December 09, 2018

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SAO PAULO, Brazil — Doctors in Brazil who brought about the first-ever birth with a uterus transplant from a dead donor say they have two more women waiting to undergo the same procedure.

“All the patients that were part of this initial group have already been selected. They have already undergone in vitro fertilisation,” one of the physicians, Dani Ejzenberg, told AFP last Thursday.

“There are good-quality embryos in storage, and now we are awaiting compatible donors so that the transplant can be done.”

All three women would be part of the “proof-of-concept” experimental phase of the procedure. For it to be then offered more broadly to women as a medical option, it would need approval from Brazilian health authorities.

Ejzenberg, a gynaecologist at the University of Sao Paulo's teaching hospital, was part of the team that this week revealed the success of their experimental operation carried out in September 2016.

That operation involved a uterus from a 45-year-old woman who died of a stroke being transplanted into the body of a 32-year-old recipient who was unable to conceive. The recipient was born without a uterus because of a rare syndrome, according to their account published in The Lancet medical journal.

Fertilised eggs were implanted in the uterus seven months later, after a cycle of drugs to suppress organ rejection.

On December 15, 2017, the baby girl was born.

“She is a very happy child and the mother too feels very fulfilled with this breakthrough,” Ejzenberg said.

“On December 15 the baby will turn one year old,” he said, adding that she was showing “completely normal development from both motor and neurological points of view.”

Professor Luiz Carneiro, who headed the transplant team, explained that he and his colleagues were proud of the fact that they coaxed life out of their groundbreaking procedure.

“We as transplanters are used to transplant organs, and in that sense we saw that it was an opportunity for a very different focus in that we were generating life from this,” he said.

The transplanted uterus in the woman was removed during the C-section birth, allowing her to stop taking immunosuppressive drugs.

Lack of live donors

Before the Brazilian experiment, the only options available to women with so-called uterine infertility were adoption or the services of a surrogate mother.

The first successful childbirth following uterine transplant from a living donor took place in September 2013 in Sweden, and there have been 11 others since then.

But there are far more women in need of transplants than there are potential live donors, so medical teams in different countries have been working to see the viability of using uteruses from deceased donors.

Ten unsuccessful attempts had been made — in the United States, the Czech Republic, and Turkey — before the breakthrough first live birth in Brazil.

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