Science has done it again, and it’s blowing my mind.
These days we’ve all pretty much accepted modern medicine’s ability to do some amazing things. Heart transplants – which likely would have struck, say, the Aztecs as a divine miracle – are fairly commonplace. And a complete blood transfusion is now not much more complicated than an oil change (though it’s admittedly easier for things to go wrong).
Into this milieu steps the startling news that doctors at the University of Gothenberg’s Sahlgrenska Hospital in Sweden have managed two successful uterine transplants.
According to CNN Health, the operations were performed on two women in their 30s, one a survivor of uterine cancer, and one who was born without a womb. Both women received their uteri from their mothers, and thus far everyone is healing up well, according to the doctors who oversaw the operations.
But the true success of the procedure will not be proven until, at a bare minimum, 21 months from now. Doctors have prescribed a yearlong acclimatization period, after which embryos (from eggs harvested pre-procedure and then fertilized) will be transferred to the wombs.
The surgery is noteworthy, among other reasons, for the possibility that it may restore a woman’s ability to have her own genetically related child, even in countries where surrogacy is not allowed, or whose regulations make it less common.
For some reason, to me, this is even more miraculous than a regular, life-saving lung or liver operation. Perhaps it’s because the uterus is an organ that never occurred to me could be replaced, or perhaps because the miracle of replacing the possibility of life, rather than just saving a life already extant, seems like a much bigger accomplishment.
Of course, we won’t know for a while whether or not the surgery is actually effective. A Turkish-based transplant using a uterus from a deceased donor occurred last year, according to CNN, but thus far no pregnancy has occurred. For now, it’s fingers crossed all around.
Photo: Johan Wingborg/GU