Lead researcher Mats Brannstrom during an operation in 2012.
Researchers in Sweden have begun the first major attempt to see if women with transplanted wombs are capable of giving birth. The Associated Press reports that nine women in Sweden have successfully received transplants as part of the trial, and that they will soon attempt to become pregnant. Though it's a seemingly small sample, only two previous womb transplants have been made before now — neither of which resulted in a birth — making the nine transplants on their own a significant accomplishment.
"This is a new kind of surgery."
The nine women are primarily in their 30s and either had their womb removed because of cervical cancer or were born without one. All have their ovaries, however, which will allow them to create embryos through in-vitro fertilization, as their fallopian tubes and uteruses have not been connected, reports the AP. The women each received their transplant from a live relative, and will have the transplant removed after a maximum of two pregnancies so that they can be taken off of risky anti-rejection drugs.
The transplants began in September, 2012, and attempts at beginning pregnancy are finally expected to start within months. There's no guarantee that the procedures will work, but the researchers see it as a contribution to science either way. The AP reports that researchers in Britain and Hungary — among other locations — are planning similar trials, though they aren't yet as far along.
The Swedish researchers are being led by Mats Brannstrom, a doctor from the University of Gothenburg, reports the AP. Brannstrom is optimistic that the procedure will allow these women to have children, though he acknowledges that it may not work, as in previous trials. He plans to publish details of the work soon and will be running a workshop next month on how the womb transplants were performed. "This is a new kind of surgery," Brannstrom tells the AP. "We have no textbook to look at."