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Doctors Could Be 5 Years Away From Uterine Transplants for Men

By Melanie Arter | November 24, 2015 | 2:44pm EST
Caitlyn Jenner (AP Photo)

News that doctors in Cleveland, Ohio have begun screening applicants for a clinical trial of uterine transplantation has prompted some to wonder if science will ever find a way to transplant a uterus into a man, and according to a Yahoo article, we may be just five years away from doing just that.

The article published Nov. 18, quoted Dr. Karine Chung, director of the fertility preservation program at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, as saying, "My guess is five, 10 years away, maybe sooner."

Theoretically, the article said, a man could receive a uterine transplant, "carry a baby to term, and give birth."

Modern medicine has already found a way to suppress male and introduce female hormones in transgender women, causing the breasts to lactate and obtaining "surgically constructed vaginas that include a 'neoclitoris,' which allows sensations." 

Biological women have "vasculature needed to feed the uterus with blood, pelvic ligaments designed to support a uterus, a vagina and cervix, and natural hormones that prepare the uterus for implantation and support the pregnancy."

However, according to Chung, "Male and female anatomy is not that different." At some point, someone "will figure out how to make that work," she said.

Biological women have a leg up on biological males when it comes to accepting and nurturing a transplanted uterus. Women already have: vasculature needed to feed the uterus with blood, pelvic ligaments designed to support a uterus, a vagina and cervix, and natural hormones that prepare the uterus for implantation and support the pregnancy.

Men have none of those support systems — naturally — but none are impossible to create. “Male and female anatomy is not that different,” said Chung. “Probably at some point, somebody will figure out how to make that work.”

"It's possible to attach a branch of a large vessel, like the internal iliac, to the uterus" in males to take the place of the uterine veins and arteries natural women have to nurture the womb," the article said.

"It's doable, it just hasn't been done," Chung was quoted as saying.

"Hormone therapy can shut off testosterone and introduce progesterone and estrogen needed to prepare the uterus for pregnancy," the article said. Also, while it's better for "a vagina to support the uterus, it's possible to attach a transplanted uterus to other ligaments in the pelvis." 

According to the article, "Uterus transplants are still in the research stage for women suffering from uterine factor infertility (UFI). A Swedish team already has successfully transplanted uteri harvested from live donors and achieved five pregnancies and four live births. In the coming months, the Cleveland Clinic team plans to transplant uteri from deceased donors into UFI female patients."

Patients who receive a uterine transplant will have to take anti rejection drugs throughout their pregnancies, which puts them at risk for infection, the article noted.

Furthermore, beside the ethical questions involving such a transplant procedure in men, there are "long-term health outcomes for transplant recipients and subsequent children" to consider, the article pointed out.

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