A mother has given birth to a healthy baby girl after surgeons implanted a womb in her body taken from a dead person.
The birth, in Brazil, is the first reported involving a deceased donor womb transplant. Ten previous attempts to achieve a live birth using a womb taken from a dead individual had all ended in failure.
The first birth after a womb transplant from a living donor took place in Sweden in September 2013. Since then there have been 39 such procedures resulting in 11 live births.
The recipient in the ground-breaking case was a 32-year-old woman born without a womb due to a rare genetic disorder. In September 2016 she was given an unexpected chance of motherhood after undergoing the womb transplant at the Hospital das Clinicas in Sao Paulo.
The uterus was taken from a 45-year-old donor, who had died from a brain haemorrhage. Surgeons spent ten-and-a-half hours plumbing in the organ by connecting veins, arteries, ligaments and vaginal canals. Details of the procedure were disclosed in The Lancet medical journal.
Dr Dani Ejzenberg, from Sao Paulo University, who led the team, said: “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. The first uterus transplants from live donors were a medical milestone, creating the possibility of child birth for many infertile women with access to suitable donors and the needed medical facilities.
“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.”
After surgery, the anonymous recipient received five immunosuppression drugs to prevent her body rejecting the new organ and other treatments to combat infection. Five months after the transplant, the implanted womb was successfully incorporated into her body. Ultrasound scans showed no abnormalities.
Two months later eight fertilised eggs were implanted into the womb. The early embryos had been frozen and stored before the transplant. Pregnancy was confirmed ten days after implantation and no complications were reported other than a kidney infection at 32 weeks that was treated with antibiotics. A baby girl weighing 6.6 pounds was born by caesarean section after a pregnancy lasting 35 weeks and three days.