Britain’s first womb transplant operation was funded entirely by charitable events like cake sales and proceeds from books sold by the medics involved.
Surgeons today releveled they had successfully implanted a womb in a 34-year-old woman who was born without one, donated by her sister, in the UK for the first time.
Professor Richard Smith, from Imperial College London, carried out the landmark womb transplant alongside colleague Isabel Quiroga, from the Oxford Transplant Centre, on a woman whose sister was the living donor, in February.
The procedure, which medics hope will enable the unnamed woman to now give birth, cost £25,000.
Due to the experimental nature of the op, it was funded by charity Womb Transplant UK rather than the health service.
The surgical medical team were ‘all in tears’ following the successful surgery which marks a huge breakthrough for thousands of British women who might otherwise be unable to give birth
Professor Richard Smith, one of the surgeons who carried out the pioneering op, donated proceeds from his book sales to help fund it
The charity relied on donations resulting from bake sales and other fundraising efforts from members of the public.
Some of the medics involved even donated proceeds from books they had written to help fund the pioneering op.
The surgeons and doctors involved in the operation and planning also gave their time for free to make the surgery a reality.
It also took place on a Sunday — a day chosen to limit interruption to any routine NHS work.
A spokesperson for the charity told MailOnline: ‘We can’t thank people enough.
‘The selflessness of people, the generosity has been stunning.’
They added that many donations had come with messages from people whose lives had been impacted by infertility and who wanted to contribute to helping others.
The charity currently has £200,000 in donations, which, in theory, can fund eight more transplants.
However, it says it needs around £300,000 more to complete the over a dozen more ops it has approval for.
The charity wants to perform a total of five live donor surgeries — which involve a woman receiving a womb from a blood relative.
They also want to undertake a clinical trial using wombs from 10-deceased donors, similar to other organ donations like liver or heart transplants.
This could open up transplants to more women looking to start a family but without an eligible female relative able or willing to donate their womb.
Womb Transplant UK urged people in a position to contribute to their work to consider making a donation via their website.
As it stands, women are only eligible if they are diagnosed with womb infertility and aged between 24 and 40, though this extends to 42 if their eggs have been frozen.
Some women can be born without a womb entirely whilst others may lose it as a result of cancer or other serious health condition.
The operations have and will be only carried out at times when the NHS is not using the theatre, so they do not impact on usual waiting lists.
More than 90 women worldwide have undergone a womb transplant, including women who were born without the organ, or who do not have a functioning one due to accident or injury.
Around 50 babies have been born worldwide as a result of womb transplants.
The UK’s first womb transplant marks a huge breakthrough for thousands of British women who might otherwise be unable to give birth.
The 40-year-old donor, who already has two children, made the selfless gift to her younger sister who wants to start a family with her husband, but, due to a medical condition, was born without a womb.
The intricate surgery to remove the womb from the donor and implant it in her sister involved two teams and eight surgeons who worked in neighbouring operating theatres and took over 17 hours in total.
The operation took place at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. The recipient, who lives in England and does not wish to be named, is said to be ‘over the moon’ at how things have gone and is ‘very, very excited’ at the prospect of starting a family
Pictured: The surgical team behind the UK’s first womb transplant
While the surgery lasted longer than planned, it went well and the implanted womb is ‘fully functional’, according to the surgeons involved.
The 34-year-old womb recipient is said to be ‘over the moon’ at how things have gone and is ‘very, very excited’ at the prospect of starting a family. She has told her doctors ‘I want to have as many children as I can’.
While the recipient was born without a womb, she does have ovaries and produced her own eggs which had previously been harvested and fertilised using IVF.
It’s now hoped she will have one of her five embryos that have been frozen in storage implanted this coming autumn at a London fertility clinic.
One of the surgeons who led the transplant told said she has an ‘over 80 per cent’ chance of a successful pregnancy.
Any resulting baby would be delivered by caesarean at 37 weeks to reduce the strain on the donated womb – and the mother then has the choice to keep the womb for one more pregnancy.
Both women, the donor and the recipient, have not been named.
The second British womb transplant is scheduled to take place this autumn and experts believe a maximum of 20 to 30 per year could be carried out in the UK in the future.
Estimates suggest there are 15,000 women in the UK of childbearing age who do not have a functioning womb.