Ten women will be chosen to undergo Britain’s first ever womb transplant operations after approval was granted for a clinical trial of the pioneering treatment.
A special committee at Imperial College London has given the green light following the birth of a baby boy after a transplant in Sweden last year.
More than 100 women have been identified as potential recipients of donor wombs, with the trial to be led by consultant gynaecologist Richard Smith.
In an interview with Sky News, he explained how the trial’s biggest problem was a lack of appropriate funding.
However, if the procedures are successful, the first British baby born as a result of a transplant could be delivered in late 2017 or early 2018.
Among those hoping to be selected is Sophie Lewis, who suffers from Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, a condition which meant her womb never developed.
The condition affects one in 5,000 women and means the only option for having a family are surrogacy or adoption.
Ms Lewis said the clinical trial gives her hope of one day starting a family with her partner Tilden Lamb, 38.
“It’s a huge operation but it’s very exciting to be given this opportunity,” she said.
“To be able to carry my own child would be amazing. If I don’t get picked, then we will go down the surrogacy route.”
Mr Smith, from Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital, has been working towards introducing womb transplants in Britain for the past 19 years.
He said: “I’ve met many of the women who want this and it’s really important for them and their partners.
“There is no doubting that, for many couples, childlessness is a disaster. Infertility is a difficult thing to treat for these women.
“Surrogacy is an option but it does not answer the deep desire that women have to carry their own baby. For a woman to carry her own baby – that has to be a wonderful thing.”
The women chosen to participate in the trial must meet strict criteria, which includes having a long-term partner and being aged under 38.
Some 300 women have approached the transplant team, with 104 meeting the criteria.
The trial will involve a six-hour operation.
After a year of treatment with immunosuppressant drugs, each patient will be implanted with one of her embryos in the hope of achieving a successful pregnancy.
Expectant mothers will need to deliver their babies via caesarean section.
Dr Smith said the trial would use deceased donors rather than living ones, owing to the complexities of the operation.
He estimates that nine or 10 uteruses could be made available to the surgical team in the Greater London area per year.
“We hope we’ll start next spring,” Dr Smith added.