Mom to transplant womb to daughter

Published: Monday, June 13 2011 1:46 p.m. MDT

Sara Ottosson was born without a womb, but still wants to give birth.

The Guardian reports Sara Ottoson's mother wants to make that possible: "Eva Ottosson, 56, the director of a lighting company, said she would offer her uterus to her 25-year-old daughter, Sara, … If the operation goes ahead — at a hospital in Sweden — Sara could conceive and carry a child in the same womb she herself was born from."

Sara Ottosson was born with Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser (MRKH) syndrome. MRKH affects about one in every 5,000 people and, in Sara Ottosson's case, it means she is missing her uterus and parts of her vagina. She is one of seven people, according to The Guardian, being assessed for the operation by Mats Brannstrom, at Gothenburg University in Sweden. If chosen, the transplant could happen next year.

Brannstrom has worked on womb transplanting techniques for more than a decade, according to an article in the Daily Mail. That article pointed out that, "The forecast will bring hope to the thousands of women of childbearing age who are born without a womb or have had it removed because of disease. But critics warned that the breakthrough erodes the sanctity of life and questioned its safety."

"The first uterus transplant, carried out on a 26-year-old Saudi woman in 2000, failed when a blood vessel supplying the organ developed a clot, and it had to be removed after 99 days," The Times (London) reported in 2009.

According to the Daily Mail, Brannstrom and his team have transplanted wombs in "mice, rats, sheep and pigs and are now hoping to achieve the same success in women."

Brannstrom told The Telegraph that transplanting a womb is much more difficult than transplanting a liver, kidney or even heart.

Getting enough blood to the organ is part of the difficulty. To help with the transplant, doctors want a close tissue match using a live donor who is closly related, such as a sister or mother, the Daily Mail said. But getting the blood supply needed to make a successful transplant points towards using a dead donor so that more blood vessels could be transplanted.

But beyond the risks is the mind-bending implications of a woman carrying her child in her mother's womb inside her own body.

"My daughter and I are both very rational people and we both think 'it's just a womb,'" Ottosson told the Telegraph. "She needs it more than me. I've had two daughters so it's served me well."

"I'm a biology teacher and it's just an organ like any other organ," the daughter told the Telegraph. She said she was more worried about her mother having "a big operation" than she is about the weirdness.

If Sara Ottosson is chosen for the operation, the transplant would take place first. Then an embryo "created from her eggs and her partner's sperm" will be transferred, The Guardian reported.

"Ottoson is hoping to have her own eggs fertilized using her boyfriend's sperm," (http://www.thelocal.se/34328/20110613/) The Local (Sweden) reports.

Even if the transplant is successful, it will only be temporary — maybe using the womb for two or three years and a birth or two. Any birth would be via caesarean section, according to The Guardian.

The moral issues of such an operation — sans the whole daughter-gives-birth-to-grandaughter-with-mother's-womb aspect — were looked at by a columnist in 2007.

"Can there be no end to the vanity of having to parent one's own genetic child? Apparently not. Doctors are now angling to cash in on the fertility/virility mania by making it possible to get a womb transplant," Bonnie Erbe wrote. "It still seems beyond ridiculous that a doctor would spend precious research resources to 'cure' a condition that is not life-threatening."

But Sara Ottosson and her boyfriend are determined to have a baby one way or another. "Sara has said she will consider adoption if the transplant operation does not go ahead or fails to result in a baby," The Guardian reported.

email: mdegroote@desnews.com Twitter: www.twitter.com/degroote

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