A brave new womb

Uterus transplants on the horizon?

By Katharine Mieszkowski
Published January 10, 2007 10:57PM (EST)

It's a headline that may bring new hope to some infertile women: "Womb transplants could become reality," Reuters reports.

A New York doctor who is trying to perform the world's first successful womb transplant on a human is apparently one step closer; he's found an organ source. As we noted last year, Dr. Giuseppe Del Priore of New York Downtown Hospital wants to perform womb transplants. Apparently, the only previous one, which was conducted in 2000 in Saudi Arabia on a 26-year-old, was unsuccessful, and had to be removed 99 days later. That womb had been transplanted from a woman 20 years older who had undergone a hysterectomy.

Now, in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, Del Priore and his colleagues write that they believe that traditional organ donor networks could be a viable source. In six months, one donor organ retrieval network that they worked with successfully harvested eight healthy wombs from nine women, who had specified that they'd like to donate theirs. (The organ donors were brain-dead, but their hearts were still beating, and other organs were also harvested.)

"Our hope," the team concluded in the journal, "is to eventually restore reproductive function through transplantation of a human uterus." (Note to Broadsheet reader Brightstar, who frequently writes letters about his desire to bear children himself: There was no word from the researchers on whether they would consider such transplants for men.)

Of course, womb transplant surgery could involve serious risks to the would-be mother. And surely some will object that infertile couples should be encouraged to adopt instead of having the futuristic hope of a new uterus dangled in front of them.

What do Broadsheet readers think?

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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