Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Procedure that led to baby born from dead donor's transplanted womb 'to be available in UAE'

A baby girl was the first in the US to be born from the transplanted uterus of a dead donor but doctors hope this will soon be an option for patients in Abu Dhabi

This baby girl became the first in the US to be born to a woman who had a uterus transplant from a deceased donor. She was born last month at Clevelend Clinic Ohio. Courtesy Cleveland Clinic Ohio
This baby girl became the first in the US to be born to a woman who had a uterus transplant from a deceased donor. She was born last month at Clevelend Clinic Ohio. Courtesy Cleveland Clinic Ohio

A procedure that led to a baby being delivered in the US by a woman whose uterus was transplanted from a dead donor may soon be coming to the UAE.

Last month, a woman gave birth to a girl at Cleveland Clinic Ohio, having had a uterus transplant from a deceased donor two years ago.

The hospital revealed the news this week, saying it was the first such birth in America.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Everything went wonderfully with the delivery; the mother and baby girl are doing great,” said Uma Perni, Cleveland Clinic Ohio’s maternal foetal medicine specialist.

“The field of uterus transplantation is rapidly evolving, and it’s exciting to see what the options may be for women in the future.”

The transplant and birth were part of an ongoing clinical trial at the US hospital that doctors in the UAE hope will soon be available at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The trial offers hope to women who are unable to have a baby due to uterine factor infertility.

Speaking to The National from Ohio, Dr Tommaso Falcone, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology and former institute chair, described the birth as a momentous occasion.

“Most transplants involve a living donor but we decided we wanted to do a deceased donor because we felt there would be no risk to the woman giving the uterus,” he said.

The new mother, in her thirties, was among 10 women involved in the trial. She had the uterus transplanted in 2017 and became pregnant about a year later through in vitro fertilisation. Her baby was born last month via Caesarean section.

A team of medical specialists deliver the baby via Caesarean section at Cleveland Clinic Ohio. Courtesy Cleveland Clinic Ohio
A team of medical specialists deliver the baby via Caesarean section at Cleveland Clinic Ohio. Courtesy Cleveland Clinic Ohio

“We have many women on the waiting list and are waiting for a suitable donor. For deceased donors, it is more complicated because fortunately young women don’t die,” said Dr Falcone.

He said the plan was to offer uterus transplants from living and deceased donors in the UAE.

“For the moment will we focus from an experimental point of view on deceased donors and we will probably offer both deceased and living donors in Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. We will have to get approval from the authorities, which I am confident we will get,” he said.

About one in 500 women of childbearing age worldwide encounters fertility issues because of her uterus. Roughly one in 5,000 women worldwide is born without one entirely.

“For a woman born without a uterus, she has only two options: adoption or surrogacy. Many women in the Middle East find that surrogacy or using a gestational carrier is not acceptable, so they are left with adoption or nothing,” Dr Falcone said.

“[The transplant] is a true option for women who are born without a uterus or have some disease were they had to have their uterus removed. These women right now have no opportunity to have a biological child so, with the uterus transplant, they would. It is very important for health care regulators to accept that this is a potential hope for women. It is experimental surgery. We need support from the government and regulators,” he said.

Since Cleveland Clinic Ohio began the clinical trial, the team has completed five uterus transplants; three were successful and two resulted in hysterectomies. Currently, two women involved in the trial are awaiting embryo transfers, while several other candidates are listed for transplants.

The risks of a uterus transplant from a deceased donor are minimal and equal to that of other transplants, such as liver transplants.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is currently the UAE’s only multi-organ transplant facility.

In December 2017, the hospital carried out the UAE’s first full heart transplant from a deceased donor, giving a 38-year-old Emirati with end-stage heart failure a new lease of life.

Local health authorities have consistently encouraged Emiratis and residents to register as donors.

Updated: July 13, 2019 06:48 PM

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