And now womb transplant

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In January 2014, the world may see a child born to a woman who has undergone the first ever successful womb transplant. The breakthrough procedure was carried out last year by Turkish surgeons on 21-year-old Derya Sert, who was born without a uterus.

Dr J Richard Smith, a British gynecologist from Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital in London, is leading efforts in the UK to start a womb transplant programme.

One in every 5,000 women in the UK is born without a womb. Besides, around 1,000 UK women from the 15-24 age group have hysterectomies every year, a commonly performed procedure for treating cervical cancer.

The British charity says the only two options available for these women are adoption and surrogacy, both acceptable options but fraught with moral, ethical and financial difficulties.

The majority of the research, published in the 1960s to the 1980s, involved transplantation of the entire female genital tract (ovaries, womb, cervix and upper vagina) in a range of different mammals.

In 2000, the world’s first womb transplant was performed on a 26-year-old woman in Saudi Arabia. Although this attempt was unsuccessful, much was learned and it was the stimulation for extensive research to continue around the world.

In December 2010, doctors in Sweden were able to report a pregnancy as a result of a womb transplant on a rat.