The Uterine Transplantation UK HQ is at the Lister Hospital (Chelsea, London) and the research team also has a base at Imperial College London.
Our research is carried out at three campuses: Hammersmith Hospital Campus (Institute of Reproductive Development and Biology), Imperial College South Kensington Campus (Institute of Biomedical Engineering) and The Lister Hospital.
Our research falls into two categories: animal studies and human studies.
Firstly we are developing the best techniques to ensure that a donated womb will be accepted by the body of the recipient. A donated womb must be accepted by the ‘health surveillance system’ of the patient receiving the donated womb.
Whenever any transplant is performed, the biggest problem that we face is trying to prevent a so-called ‘rejection’ of the donated organ. This ‘rejection’ is carried out by the ‘health surveillance system’ of the recipient. The system is made up of cells which act as protectors against anything that they find to be foreign e.g. bacteria, a virus, or a donated women in our case.
To ensure that the donated womb is accepted and therefore, a potential attack is averted, the patient is given an immunosuppressant. These drugs dampen the immune response and have been used with success in kidney, liver, heart and lung, trachea and hand and face transplants for many years. Our research will help us to decide the type and optimum dose of immunosuppressive drug.
Simultaneously we are developing methodology to ensure adequate perfusion of the womb following the transplant. Our team is aided in this by the Biomedical Engineering Team, based at the Biophotonics and Surgical Imaging Laboratory (Imperial College London) and headed by Drs Dan Elson and Neil Clancy.
Finally, we will be performing IVF on our transplanted wombs in order to see whether we can achieve the ‘Holy Grail’, a safe and viable pregnancy post-transplantation. Advice and support will come from Mr Sam Abdalla and Dr Yau Thum from The Lister Fertility Clinic.
The human studies we will be carrying out will focus on the attitudes of healthcare professionals and patients who could benefit from our work.
Our aim is to develop a way of assessing the suitability of a patient both physically and psychologically, to undergo the whole process of womb transplantation. Drawing on the experiences of teams in other forms of transplant surgery, we are looking at the preparation of potential patients prior to what is a major operation as well as what care and support they will need after the operation and after having a baby.
If you have been diagnosed with Rokitansky Syndrome or any type of womb-related infertility and are willing to help with this aspect of our research, please contact Dr Benjamin Jones either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or OR telephone: 07740 358900.