Jan 24, 2007

Make Room—the New Womb is on Its Way!

You've given up hope of ever bearing a child. You had a hysterectomy years ago—fibroids that turned questionable, endometriosis—the whole bit. Then along comes a chance—a dramatic, crazy new procedure that plants the womb of a recently deceased donor into you. You can then get pregnant, go through nine months of nurturing the fetus in your body, and then, just to be safe, obstetricians will remove the baby through caesarian section and at the same time remove the implanted uterus. You'll have one live healthy baby and be no worse off than when you started.

Sounds like science fiction? Not if you are cancer specialist and lead physician, Dr. Guiseppe del Priore or gynecologic surgeon Dr. Jeanetta Stega, both of New York Downtown Hospital. The womb transplant operation has been performed only once before, on a woman (in Saudi Arabia, seven years ago) whose body then rejected the new uterus after three months. And further, the risk of rejection while a fetus is alive in the uterus is, of course, a huge concern, scientifically, ethically, and emotionally, as are questions about the health risks to the recipient. But the team of surgeons believes rejection and health risks can be minimized or circumvented with the use of anti-rejection drugs administered months before the procedure as well as by recent surgical advances.

The cost is estimated to be upwards of $500K for all procedures, and assumes that donor organs are available. Despite the risks and difficulties involved, "the downtown hospital has already received hundreds of inquiries and around 50 women are being screened at this time." The next attempted at a womb transplant is expected to take place later this year.

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