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N.Y. doctors work toward 1st U.S. uterus transplant

January 20, 2007|From the Associated Press

A New York hospital is seeking to conduct the nation's first uterus transplant, a procedure intended to allow women without a womb or with an impaired womb to bear children.

The wombs would come from dead donors, as most organs do, and would be removed after recipients gave birth so they would not need lifetime anti-rejection drugs.

The hospital's ethics board has conditionally approved the plans.

However, the hospital's president said a transplant was not expected "anytime in the near future."

Much research must still be done, cautioned several experts, and one of them said the procedure was "not really ready for prime time."

The transplant project is being led by Dr. Giuseppe Del Priore, a cancer specialist, and Dr. Jeanetta Stega, a gynecologic surgeon, at the New York Downtown Hospital, part of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System. The team recently completed a six-month study showing that wombs could be harvested from cadavers. Potential recipients are being screened.

"I believe it's technically possible" to transplant a human uterus, Del Priore said.

It has only been attempted once, with a uterus from a live donor in Saudi Arabia in 2000. The recipient had to have the uterus removed three months later because of a blood clot.

Stega thinks that transplanting more blood vessels and using better anti-clotting drugs would lessen this risk.

Doctors in London and Hungary also want to offer transplants, and several are working with Del Priore and Stega.

Transplant candidates might include women born without a uterus, those with abnormal tissue growth called endometriosis, and women who lost a womb to noncancerous tumors called fibroids.

Transplants have been attempted with a rhesus monkey, mice, rats, rabbits and pigs, with offspring only in rodents.

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