Thinking about what these scientists are doing with ewes fills me with images from that frightful human birth gulag in Galactica, but it’s impossible not to be fascinated by the fact that these uterus transplants have not only been successful, but that the (surviving, agh) sheep have been successfully knocked up after the transplants — and now there’s a queue of human women signing up to be on a uterus transplant list at the New York Downtown Hospital. Snip from New Scientist, and a warning of graphic imagery on the story page:
(…) Researchers mated five of the remaining seven ewes with two rams, towards the end of 2006. Four of these ewes became pregnant as a result of this natural mating. The animals are now four-months-pregnant – one month away from full term, at which point they will undergo a caesarean section delivery.
Brannstrom’s team-mate Pernilla Dahm-Kahler is presenting details of the experiment this weekend at the first annual symposium of uterine transplantation taking place in Sweden.
The team previously showed that mice that receive uterine transplants can successfully become pregnant and give birth. They say that the pregnancies in sheep represent a significant advance as the animals are larger, making the transplantation procedure more similar to one that might work in humans.
Their next step will be to swap the uterus organs of two sheep in the next few weeks. These sheep will have to receive drugs that suppress the immune system, to prevent their bodies rejecting the foreign transplants. A successful outcome of this follow-up experiment could bolster hopes that uterine transplants will become a viable option for humans.