First womb transplant slated on May 18, Pune hospital readies for procedure

Pune hospital readies for the procedure as it brushes aside talks on leaving ICMR out of the loop

Pune's Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute (GCLI) is all set to perform India's first uterine transplant on May 18.

Three women with different uterine complications will undergo womb transplants to help them try for successful pregnancies. The first transplant will take place on May 18, another on May 19, and the third will be conducted in June.

The hospital has the license to conduct womb transplants for a period of five years granted by the Directorate of Health Services, Maharashtra.

While the Pune hospital will be the first to conduct the procedure in India, Bengaluru's Milann Fertility Centre will perform uterine transplants in June on two women born without a uterus.

Milann received an approval for the procedures from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). It did not shy away from pointing out that the Pune hospital did not have ICMR's approval, as mandated by India's apex research body for experimental procedures.

World over 25 such transplants have been attempted. The first successful uterine transplant was carried out in Sweden in 2013. In the Swedish trial of 11 transplants, seven ended in successful pregnancies.

Dr Kamini Rao, Medical Director, Milann, said the Swedish team from the University of Gothenburg who conducted the trial will be on board for the procedures.

"We obtained ICMR's approval in February since it is an experimental procedure," she said.

Reacting to questions raised on a possible lapse in protocol, Dr Shailesh Puntambekar, Medical Director, GCLI, said, "They (Milann) probably did not get permission from the state authority, which is why they had to approach ICMR. They are getting a team from Sweden while we are doing it on own since we are competent." Dr Puntambekar is an onco surgeon who developed a laparoscopic radical hysterectomy for cervical cancer known world over as the Pune Technique.

Meanwhile, ICMR's Director-General Dr Soumya Swaminathan said, "As this is an experimental procedure, it should be done under a research protocol. They (GCLI) appear to be going ahead with it as a patient treatment with approval from local health authorities. ICMR does not have the mandate to interfere at this stage."

The procedure

Uterus from a live donor, in the Pune patient's case, her mother, will be transplanted. The procedure is expected to take about 10 hours, and has a high chance of rejection.

Patients will be monitored closely for six months. Depending on their health, fertilised embryos will be transferred into the uterus via IVF procedure.