According to the journal the Lancet, scientists in North Carolina and Mexico in a joint collaboration have grown and implanted vagina’s from four girl’s own cells and implanted them as fully functioning organs. In this latest success in regenerative medicine, scientists have created a functioning organ that is indistinguishable from the patient’s own tissue and has grown in size with the women who had the implantation surgery as teens. These four women were born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, a rare condition in which girls are born with a vagina and/ or uterus that is underdeveloped or absent.
The four women in the study who are now in young adulthood, are sexually active and report normal function of the organ even menstruation in 2 of the 4 women who were born with a normal uterus. It is unknown at this time if the organs will be capable for childbirth, but because they are menstruating it is believed that it is possible, according to the director of Wake Forest’s Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Anthony Atala.
The conventional treatment for those with this condition was surgery using grafts from intestinal tissue or skin, but these options had several drawbacks like odor and not being strong enough.
The surgeries took place between June 2005 and October 2008 when the women were between 13 and 18 years old. In the process the scientists took a small amount of genital cells from the patient and grew these in the lab into two types of cells, muscle and epithelial. These were then placed in layers onto a base scaffolding made of collagen which could be easily absorbed by the patient’s body. Then it was individually shaped to fit each patient and placed into an incubator for about a week. Surgery was performed on the patient to create a place in the body for the new organ and then the engineered implant was attached to existing reproductive organs. In six months time the scientists said you couldn’t tell the difference between the implanted vagina and a normal one.