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UK mother agrees to donate her womb to daughter

Jun 13, 2011

A UK mother has agreed to donate her
womb to her daughter, raising the prospect
of the daughter conceiving and carrying a
child in the same womb she herself was
born from.
A woman in Nottingham has agreed to
donate her womb to her infertile daughter if
doctors gain permission to attempt the
groundbreaking transplant operation.
Eva Ottosson, 56, the director of a lighting
company, said she would offer her uterus to
her 25-year-old daughter, Sara, who cannot
have children because of a serious birth
defect that left her without a womb.
If the operation goes ahead – at a hospital
in Sweden – Sara could conceive and carry a
child in the same womb she herself was
born from, but serious technical hurdles
must be cleared if the procedure is to
succeed.The operation is experimental and
still at a premature stage in animal studies.
Only a handful of mice have been born from
transplanted wombs and little work has
been done in larger animals, such as pigs,
rabbits and monkeys.
The deeply complex nature of the operation
carries serious risks for the donor and
recipient, leading some doctors to claim the
procedure is not ready to be performed in
humans. "As a mother you have all these
questions: have you thought it through; do
you know what you are doing; how do you
feel about having the same womb that you
have been developed in yourself," Eva
Ottosson told the BBC.
"Of course it's major surgery and has its
risks, but I trust them, I know they know
what they're doing. I'm more concerned
about my daughter and what the impact will
be for her," she added.
Sara Ottosson, a biology teacher who lives
and works in Stockholm, has a rare
condition calledMayer Rokitansky Küster
Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, also known as
Müllerian agenesis, in which the
reproductive system begins to grow but
never fully develops. Women with the
disorder are typically born without a womb
and fallopian tubes, and have vaginal
malformations.
Little is known about the cause of the
condition, but like many of the one in 5,000
people born with the disorder, Sara only
became aware of the problem when she
failed to begin menstruating as a teenager.
While a small number of womb transplants
have led to healthy births in experiments
with mice, the procedure is almost
completely untested in humans.
In 2000, doctors in Saudi Arabia transferred
a womb from a dead donor into a 26-year-
old woman, but had to remove the organ
three months later when it developed a
blood clot and began to die.
Sara Ottosson is one of seven patients who
have undergone tests to assess their
suitability for the operation under a
programme run by Mats Brännström, a
leader in the field of experimental womb
transplants at Gothenburg University in
Sweden. The operation could go ahead next
year.
If the operation is approved, Sara would
have surgery to transplant her mother's
uterus before an IVF embryo created from
her eggs and her partner's sperm was
transferred.
A successful transplant would be temporary,
with the uterus being removed two to three
years later to avoid medical complications.
Any birth would be via caesarean
section.The operation is technically more
demanding than a heart, kidney or liver
transplant. Among the greatest risks are life-
threatening haemorrhage and an
insufficient blood supply to the womb.
Sara has said she will consider adoption if
the transplant operation does not go ahead
or fails to result in a baby. Some 15,000
women of childbearing age in Britain were
born without a uterus or had the organ
damaged or removed by illness, such as
cancer.
In 2009, a team of surgeons and vets led by
Richard Smith at Hammersmith Hospital in
London reported several womb transplant
operations in rabbits, though none of the
animals became pregnant and carried
young. The research has stalled in Britain
through a lack of funding and scepticism
from some in the medical community. The
work is due to resume this year with
support from an independent charity,
Uterine Transplant UK.