More and more, it seems like news headlines are plucked from the scripts of sci-fi movies. Take, for example, the first-ever birth from a transplanted uterus. A Swedish woman who was born with functioning ovaries but no uterus received a donated uterus from a 61-year-old postmenopausal friend. After in-vitro fertilization, the embryo was implanted in the transplanted uterus. The woman gave birth to a baby boy prematurely, but mother and son and reportedly doing well.
After the success of the transplanted-uterus birth, scientists moved on to their next mission: How do we create a bioengineered uterus?
As The Atlantic reports, the birth of a child from a transplanted womb is an "unprecedented achievement" that opens doors for women who lose their uterus from cancer, are born without a uterus, or are unable to conceive or carry a child due to biological abnormalities or defects. And now that scientists have figured out that transplanted wombs are a reality, researchers have set their sites on a even better option for infertility solutions. That's where the bioengineered uterus comes into play.
A bioengineered uterus has many advantages over a womb transplant, as The Atlantic points out. A bioengineered uterus would, in theory, be created from the cells of the intended patient. There's no need for immunosuppressants, which transplant recipients must take for the rest of their lives to ensure their body doesn't reject the new organ. Furthermore, there's no need for a donor to go through a risky surgery.
While surrogacy also allows women to maintain genetic relations to their child, that option is also a mixed bag. Many want to gestate their own child, which surrogacy obviously doesn't allow. Also, the surrogate is vulnerable to all the adverse heath effects of pregnancy. Plus, some first-world countries—like Germany and France—don't even allow surrogacy. Australia and Canada only permit surrogacy as long as no payment is involved.
While perfecting the bioengineered uterus is certainly years away, the fact that it's on the forefront of scientific minds is an important step toward finding the best solutions for infertility.