July 1, 2022

ARE WOMB TRANSPLANTS AROUND THE CORNER?

A British doctor has claimed that his team is only two years away from being able to transplant a womb so that women who lack a uterus can have the experience of having children. Dr Richard Smith, of Hammersmith Hospital, says that the transplant would be temporary, as otherwise the woman would be obliged to take immunosuppressant drugs to prevent rejection of the uterus for the rest of her life. This is not a new idea, but up to now, it has not succeeded. In 2002, doctors in Saudi Arabia carried out a womb transplant, but its blood supply failed.

Although this news may have given heart to the 15,000 women in Britain who lack a uterus, the science editor for the London Times, Mark Henderson, derided it as “junk science”. “Bold predictions about experimental medical technologies are always best handled with care,” he said. “They often suit both journalists and scientists, who can enter into a kind of tacit conspiracy; swift timetables for human trials make good headlines and catch the attention of research funders. But they are regularly shown up as guesswork later.”

Although the enormous difficulty of ensuring an adequate blood supply may be overcome, ethical hurdles remain. Any problems could harm a foetus and result in stillbirth, miscarriage, or serious medical problems in the infant.