Monday, 13 June 2011

Uterus Transplantation: Clinical Trial Planned in One Year from Now

In October last year, I reported about the plans of a Swedish team of medical researchers, based in my city, to conduct uterus transplantation. At the time, they had just initiated the final stage of animal experiments on large primates, to validate safety and effectiveness of the procedure.

Today, BBC aired an interview with a woman who has agreed to donate her uterus to her own daughter, who suffers from the Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser syndrome (MRKH) – one of the conditions targeted by this new procedure. The news is also presented in The Telegraph, and in Swedish media (here, here). The trial is planned to take place about one year from now at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg (my home town).

I am unsure about how far the primate trials have proceeded, but before any trial is initiated, the responsible surgeon – Mats Brännström – will, by Swedish law, have to secure ethical permission. There are several potential risk factors with the actual surgery (as acknowledged by Brännström), and also uncertainty as to how the chances of establishing a pregnancy may be affected by the various parts of the procedure, such as drugs taken to prevent the new uterus to be attacked by the recipient's immune system. Presumably, the fact that the donor is a close relative of the recipient is a part of the actions taken to reduce this last risk factor (since less of the drugs will be needed than if the donor had been genetically more distant from the recipient).

My own guess is that the team will have to present very strong evidence to the Ethics Review Board, since the procedure is not life-saving. For other ethical considerations, see my earlier post!