World’s first baby born from transplanted womb of dead donor

A Brazilian woman was the first to give birth after receiving a womb transplant from a deceased donor, Reuters reported.

To date, 39 womb transplants from live donors have been performed, resulting in the birth of 11 babies, according to BBC News.

But out of the 10 womb transplants from deceased donors, none of the procedures has resulted in a birth – until now.

A successful procedure

The 34-year-old woman from São Paulo, Brazil, underwent the procedure in 2016 under the guidance of Dr Dani Ejzenberg and his research team at the University Hospital of Sao Paulo.

The baby was delivered via Caesarean section at 35 weeks and three days, and weighed 2 550g according to the case study reported in The Lancet.

According to reports, the success of this procedure means that there will be a larger option of donors available for those who have trouble conceiving because of uterine factor infertility.

Uterine factor infertility is infertility in women born without a uterus; loss of the organ due to hysterectomy, cancer or postpartum haemorrhage; or a congenital defect, such as the rare Mayer-Rokitankshy-Kuster-Hauser syndrome, which was the reason for the Brazilian woman's infertility. 

The donor was 45 years old and died of bleeding on the brain, caused by a stroke. 

Six weeks after the uterine transplant, which was performed in 2016, the Brazilian woman started having periods again. After seven months, fertilised eggs were implanted, the BBC reported. The baby was born on 5 December 2017, but the case study has only recently been published. 

Larger pool through deceased donors

While womb transplants from living donors have been successful, womb transplants from deceased donors still need to be researched, as none of the deceased donor transplants has until now resulted in conception and birth.

This breakthrough gives new hope to women with uterine factor infertility who cannot conceive.

"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," said Dr Ejzenberg in a statement about the procedure. “Infertility can have a devastating impact upon couples, particularly for women with absolute uterine factor infertility, for which there has been no effective treatment to date and – for some of these women, womb transplantation is the only way they can carry a pregnancy,” stated Mr J Richard Smith, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Clinical Lead at Womb Transplant UK.

How is a womb transplant performed?

The first living donor womb transplant was performed in Sweden in 2013. Until then, the only ways to get a child for those with serious uterine problems were surrogacy or adoption.

A womb transplant is performed by removing the womb from the donor and transplanting it into the recipient by connecting the two major veins and a series of arteries, ligaments and vaginal canals, according to The Lancet.

After the recipient's womb and ovarian are functioning, the embryos are transplanted into her uterus – generally at least one year after the transplant. Pregnancy and delivery then follow. The uterus is removed and immunosuppressants are stopped after birth, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Further research needed

While this event is a major breakthrough, a team of researchers remarked earlier this year in BJOG: An international Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology that this type of surgery remains invasive and needs to be improved before being carried out on a larger scale. They added that the procedure remains experimental and that meticulous screenings and protocols also need to be standardised.

While this procedure is still in an experimental phase, organ donors are needed. Visit the Organ Donor Foundation (ODF) for more information. 

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