Swedish team announces successful womb transplants in sheep

Swedish researchers announced on Wednesday that they had successfully carried out womb transplants on four sheep, which subsequently became pregnant.

They say the success of the operations brings the prospect of human uterus

transplants one step closer.

The sheep were operated by laparotomy, an incision through the abdominal wall, said Professor Mats Brännström of Gothenburg University’s department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

“We took the uterus outside the body, we kept it for a couple of hours outside the body,” he added.

When they put the uterus back in the same body they connected it with other blood vessels and to the vagina.

“After four to six weeks the sheep went back to the farm and then they have been put with rams and they have been mating and four of the five are pregnant,” Brännström added.

“I think this is successful, because what it proves is that you can put the uterus back with a different blood supply and you can do that in large animal species.

“I think this is one small step forward to human uterus transplantation.”

One of the main difficulties in the operations had been the problem of reconnecting the blood vessels, he said.

Of the 14 sheep used in the research, some had not survived the operations, according to a report in the magazine New Scientist.

Brännström said that from next week, they planned to move from removing and replacing a uterus from the same subject, to transplanting a uterus from one subject to the other.

But this would bring a fresh complication, he added: the risk of the recipient rejecting the uterus.