A few months ago, we wondered at the wisdom of going ahead with uterine transplants without doing those simple things like animal trials, seeing what the risks of anti-rejection drugs are on a pregnancy, and how a transplanted uterus would hold up during the duration of a pregnancy. (For example, would a transplanted uterus maintain the necessary elasticity to grow during pregnancy? Would the sutures maintain the bond between uterus and blood vessels?) Without answers to these and other questions, we remained skeptical of the entire concept.
Well, researchers in Sweden have apparently decided animal models would be a swell idea, and have done auto-transplants on 14 ewes. In this procedure, their own uteruses were removed, left out of the body for several hours, then re-transplanted into the body and grafted onto a different blood supply (one providing blood to the legs). Half the sheep developed complications that required euthanization (ewe-thanization?). Of the remaining seven, five were mated naturally and four became pregnant. These ewes are nearing the end of their gestation, at which point the researchers will perform c-sections to deliver the hopefully healthy lambs.
Of course, these are auto-transplants - a good first step to figuring out the complexities of uterine transplants as a whole. Right now the researchers just have to worry about getting the re-implanted uterus working; anti-rejection drugs and their effects on pregnancies can come at a later (planned) stage.
While the New Scientist article wants to warn of the dangers of and inherent risks to non-necessary surgery, I think we're well beyond that. We're a nation of people who take that risk daily, going under the knife for vanity surgeries to fix purely cosmetic issues. Given the huge import placed on bearing biological children, uterine transplants aren't going to be stopped by someone saying it might be dangerous, and the attitude that it's a non-necessary surgery, when biological children are so valued, is just going to offend what I suspect will be a large number of women who would leap at the chance, should technology allow.
(With apologies for the puns. I think Art Caplan is rubbing off on me...)