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Swedish docs set for mother-daughter womb transplant

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Swedish docs set for mother-daughter womb transplant
16:40 CEST+02:00
Doctors in Sweden are preparing to transplant the womb of a 56-year-old woman into her own daughter.

Surgeons are confident of success in what will be a groundbreaking operation on 25-year-old Sara Ottoson.

The woman, who lives and works in Stockholm was born without a uterus, as a result of the rare condition Mayer Rokitanksy Kuster Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, reports UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

Ottoson is hoping to have her own eggs fertilised using her boyfriend's sperm and then implanted into the womb she herself was carried in.

The woman’s mother, 56-year-old Eva Ottoson has agreed to become the first woman in the world to have her womb transplanted into her daughter.

"My daughter and I are both very rational people and we both think it's just a womb. She needs the womb and if I'm the best donor for her, well, go on. She needs it more than me. I've had two daughters so it's served me well," she told the newspaper.

Professor Mats Brännström of Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska University Hospital is set to lead the procedure, which he said is much more complex than transplanting a kidney, liver or heart.

"We have reached a stage where we have started to plan for a human transplant and we are investigating 10 pairs, most of those are mother and daughters," he told AFP, adding the first of such transplants could take place "hopefully at the beginning of next year."

He added that transplanting a womb from a woman to her daughter would be a world first, although a uterus transplant between two unrelated women took place in Saudi Arabia in 2002.

His international team of doctors at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital has been researching the subject for a decade and has tested it on animals, he said, explaining there were no particular complications in transplanting a womb from mother to daughter.

"There can just be an advantage because they are more similar in their tissues so there could be less rejection in that situation," he said.

One of the pairs undergoing the physical and psychological tests required ahead of a possible procedure were quoted in Swedish media Tuesday as saying they were grateful to be part of the project.

"I have been given an opportunity I did not think was possible," Sara Ottosson told Swedish tabloid Expressen.

"I have always loved children. Over the past five years I have felt intense sorrow over not being able to have children of my own," she told its competitor Aftonbladet.

Ottoson could receive a uterus from her mother, who said she no longer had any use for the organ and that it felt natural to do everything she could to help her daughter.

"I think all parents do what they can to help their children if it feels right," Eva Ottosson told Aftonbladet.

The daughter insisted receiving the womb she herself emerged from was not a cause for concern.

"It's an organ just like any other and it has no genetic significance. I work as a biology teacher and I don't think its strange," she told Expressen.

The world's first uterus transplant took place in 2002 when doctors in Saudi Arabia transplanted the womb of a 46-year-old woman to a 26-year-old.

Although blood clots forced the doctors to remove the transplanted organ after 14 weeks, they claimed technical success in the procedure.

Brännström said such complications would be less likely in the Swedish transplants.

"We have optimised the technique in our animal models for such a long time. The Saudi Arabia team didn't have any experience at all in animal models before. They did it in humans right away," he explained.

In 2007, scientists planned the first uterus transplant in the United States, but the procedure never went beyond the screening stage.

"The research front has moved forward since 2007 and especially our group has taken big steps forward in this research, so that's why we think we are ready to do this," Brännström said.

Last year researchers at Sahlgrenska led by Brännström successfully transplanted a womb from one rat to another. Several rats were involved in the trials and were later able to become pregnant.

There will be no lack of attention to the Ottoson's operation, which could take place next spring if all goes to plan.

MRKH affects around one in 1,500 women and researchers estimate that there could be up to 10,000 women in Scandinavia alone who could stand to benefit from such transplants.

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