One of the women to receive a new womb in the pioneering procedure had to have her uterus removed many years ago because of cervical cancer. The other woman was born without a womb.
A press statement from the University on Tuesday reports:
"The transplantations, which are the result of more than ten years of Swedish and international research collaboration, were completed without complications."
The leader of the transplant team is Mats Brännström, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Gothenburg, and chief physician at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital Women's Clinic. He explains how he and his colleagues have been preparing for this event, and how the patients are doing:
"More than 10 surgeons, that had trained together on the procedure for several years, took part in the complicated surgery."
"Both patients that received new uteri are doing fine but are tired after surgery. The donating mothers are up and walking and will be discharged from the hospital within a few days," he adds.
More than 10 Years of ResearchBrännström says the idea of womb transplantation arose in 1998 when he was working in Australia, and had to inform a patient of his how the removal of her womb following cervical cancer had cured her of the cancer but had taken away her ability to have a baby.
The patient had asked him why couldn't he transplant her mother's womb into her? This idea stuck in his mind, and when he returned to Sweden in 1999, he started researching it, and doing animal experiments.
The first successful transplant was in a mouse by team member and senior scientist Randa Racho El-Akouri, then a medical PhD student, with skills in microsurgery, says Brännström.
The researchers reported the successful transplant of a uterus in a mouse, and the ensuing pregnancy and development of offspring, in various papers published around 2003.
After establishing this cornerstone, the team progressed to larger and larger animals, all the way up to baboons.
In another video interview, team member Liza Johannesson, gynecology surgeon and senior scientist, explains that because they were developing a procedure that was not regarded as life-saving, they had to perfect it in non-human primates first, to make sure they had done their best to make it as safe as possible.
The ProcedureThe uterus is removed from the donor via an incision in the abdomen. The complete organ is excised from surrounding tissue and vessels, removed and placed on a bed of ice where connected blood vessels are then flushed with a preservative.
From the time the new uterus is inserted into the recipient, it can take about 20 minutes for the newly connected blood vessels to function. Once the blood is circulating properly, the surgeons then align the uterus to the patient's vaginal top and fix it into the pelvis.
The team hopes the operation will help healthy women who want to bear children but who have had to have their uterus removed or were born without one. In Sweden alone, there are around two to three thousand women of childbearing age who can't have children for these reasons.
Written by Catharine Paddock PhD