Uterus Transplantation: A Rapidly Expanding Field
Uterus transplantation (UTx) has been successfully introduced as a treatment option for women with absolute uterine factor infertility (AUFI). AUFI representing approximately 3% to 5% of the female general population is linked to either congenital uterine agenesis (Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome), major congenital uterine malformation (hypoplastic uterus, fraction of bicornuate/unicornuate uterus), a surgically absent uterus, or an acquired condition (intrauterine adhesions, leiomyoma) linked to uterine malfunction that causes implantation failure or defect placentation. The world’s first clinical uterus transplant was performed in 2000. However, a hysterectomy became necessary shortly after the surgery due to uterine necrosis. In 2011, a group in Turkey reported on a surgically successful deceased donor transplant; however, this procedure has, to date, not resulted in a healthy live birth, the ultimate goal of UTx. Building on an extensive experimental background in various animal models, including primates, the Gothenburg group led by Brännström reported on the first delivery of a healthy baby in a recipient of a live donor UTx in 2014. This event did not only show the feasibility of UTx, it also helped defining relevant areas of clinical and basic research. Use of a gestational surrogate carrier, is, at least in theory, an alternative for a woman with AUFI seeking genetic motherhood. However, in the clear majority of countries worldwide, gestational surrogacy is not practiced based on legal, ethical, or religious concerns. Of note, the overwhelming majority of surveyed women in the United Kingdom, a country which permits surrogacy, preferred UTx over gestational surrogacy and adoption. Moreover, randomly selected women of fertile age in Sweden preferred UTx over gestational surrogacy. A recent large survey in Japan with more than 3000 participants revealed that UTx had a twofold higher acceptance rate compared with gestational surrogacy. In a recent US survey exploring the potential of donating vascularized composite allografts, uterus donation achieved the highest priority. Thus, the acceptance of UTx as infertility treatment for women with AUFI is high, although the procedure remains in its infancy. Here, we provide an update of clinical activities, summarize achievements and challenges, and submit areas of research interests.