Scientists have successfully grown a vagina in a lab and implanted it into a teenager, it was revealed yesterday.
The girl was born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, a rare genetic condition in which the vagina and uterus are underdeveloped or absent.
Scientists at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, in the USA, grew the vagina from the patient’s own cells and the surgery was performed at HIMFG Tissue Engineering Laboratory at the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico City.
The research team was led by Anthony Atala, M.D.
“This pilot study is the first to demonstrate that vaginal organs can be constructed in the lab and used successfully in humans,” said Atala. “This may represent a new option for patients who require vaginal reconstructive surgeries. In addition, this study is one more example of how regenerative medicine strategies can be applied to a variety of tissues and organs.”
4 girls in total featured in the study. At the time of the surgeries they were 13-18. The operations were performed between June 2005 and October 2008. regular monitoring shows that even up to eight years after the surgeries, the organs were still functioning normally and were able to have pain free intercourse.
The organ structures were engineered using muscle and epithelial cells (the cells that line the body’s cavities) from a small biopsy of each patient’s external genitals. The cells were extracted from the tissues, expanded and then placed on a biodegradable material that was hand-sewn into a vagina-like shape. These scaffolds were tailor-made to fit each patient.
About five to six weeks after the biopsy, surgeons created a canal in the patient’s pelvis and sutured the scaffold to reproductive structures.
A variety of materials can be used to surgically construct a new vagina — from skin grafts to tissue that lines the abdominal cavity. However, these substitutes often lack a normal muscle layer and some patients can develop a narrowing or contracting of the vagina.
The researchers say that with conventional treatments, the overall complication rate is as high as 75 percent in pediatric patients, with the need for vaginal dilation due to narrowing being the most common complication.
Co-researchers were James J. Yoo, M.D., Ph.D., and Shay Soker, Ph.D., Wake Forest Baptist, and Diego R. Esquiliano M.D., Reyna Fierro-Pastrana P.hD., Esther Lopez-Bayghen Ph.D., Pedro Valencia M.D., and Ricardo Ordorica-Flores, M.D.,Children’s Hospital Mexico Federico Gomez Metropolitan Autonomous University, Mexico.
Atlántida M Raya-Rivera, Diego Esquiliano, Reyna Fierro-Pastrana, Esther López-Bayghen, Pedro Valencia, Ricardo Ordorica-Flores, Shay Soker, James J Yoo, Anthony Atala. Tissue-engineered autologous vaginal organs in patients: a pilot cohort study. The Lancet, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60542-0