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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 07:42 GMT
US doctors plan womb transplant
By Jeremy Cooke
BBC News, New York

Women may be given new hope of having a baby
A team of doctors in New York say they are planning to perform the first womb transplant in the US.

The procedure would potentially allow women who have had their wombs damaged or removed to develop a pregnancy and give birth.

The plan is use a womb from a woman who has died.

A womb transplant has been tried once before, in Saudi Arabia in 2000, but then the womb came from a live donor, and was rejected after three months.

If a pregnant uterus rejects you have got a serious medical problem
Dr Sherman Silber
Infertility expert

If the New York team are successful, it could bring new hope of becoming a mother to millions of women worldwide, many of whom have had their wombs removed due to illnesses such as cancer.

The New York surgeons have been running trials over the last six months which they say have confirmed that it is possible to remove the wombs of deceased donors in the same way as hearts, kidneys and livers are taken for transplant.

The next step would be to place a donated uterus into a recipient through an incision below the navel.

Caesarean section

The recipient's own embryo - which would have been harvested and frozen prior to the treatment - would be transferred into the transplanted womb allowing the pregnancy to develop.

After birth by Caesarean section the uterus would be removed to minimise the risk of tissue rejection.

Dr Giuseppe Del Priore, who is leading the transplant project, said: "Transplant medicine has improved sufficiently to allow us to consider non-vital transplants.

"That is why we are talking about face, hands, and other things as well."

Some in the medical community here are warning that the procedure would be extremely dangerous.

Dr Sherman Silber, an infertility expert from St Louis, said: "At any time during the nine months of pregnancy it could very easily reject, and if a pregnant uterus rejects you have got a serious medical problem."

But the surgeons directly involved believe the risks can be minimised and that many infertile women will enthusiastically pursue the opportunity to give birth to their own child.

Hundreds of women have inquired about the procedure at the Downtown Hospital, and 40 to 50 are currently being screened.

However, a transplant is not expected "any time in the near future".

Doctors for and against the procedure

Transplants come under scrutiny
17 Jan 07 |  Health
Pregnancy after womb transplant
20 Aug 02 |  Health

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