Infertile women could be implanted with new wombs grown from their own stem cells within 15 years, the doctor who achieved the first uterus transplant has predicted.
Professor Mats Brannstrom carried out the first womb transplant in 2014, which allowed a Swedish woman to give birth to a healthy baby boy. He has since undertaken nine more procedures, resulting in a total of five births. But he told a conference in Birmingham the future lies in bio-engineering, which lessens risk factors.
At present, women undergoing the operation must be given strong immunosuppressant drugs to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new womb, which is donated by a family member or close friend. But if a new womb could be grown from their own stem cells no drugs would be needed and there would be fewer complications.
Professor Brannstrom told delegates that womb "patches" had already been successfully grown in rats from stem cells and the procedure could be perfected for humans within 10 or 15 years.
"The concept is you create from stem cells of the recipient and transplant that into the recipient," he told the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists world congress.
"These may be the future, but we'll of course need a lot of research," he said, referring to a time frame of "not in five years, but perhaps in 10-15 years."
Womb transplants help women suffering from Absolute Uterine Factor Infertility (AUFI), which occurs when a faulty or absent uterus prevents an embryo from implanting. AUFI affects around 12,000 women in Britain.
Richard Smith, who leads the UK Uterine Transplant Research Programme, lauded Prof Brannstom's "very important proof of concept", and said "the success of the Swedish team shows that at least some of these women will be able to bear their own child where before there was no hope".