Scientists Successfully Grow Vagina In Lab

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April 11, 2014 8:06am PST

In an effort to remedy children born with an unfortunate condition, scientists have successfully been able to grow a vagina in a lab.  For most women born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, there hasn’t been much hope, until now.

MRKH is a syndrome in which women are born with an underdeveloped, or sometimes non-existent, vagina and/or uterus.  Before the most recent discovery, those suffering from MRKH didn’t have many options as their medical solutions were few and far between.

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Treatment usually consists of skin grafts or other tissue that would be formed to create the female anatomy.  These procedures however come with their fair share of complications in the long run as women often fall victim to a narrowing vagina as a result.

It seems as though these issues may be a thing of the past as doctors and scientists have not only successfully grown a vagina in the lab, but have also implanted four as well.  These vaginas were custom made for each recipient starting out with their own individual cells.

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Crafted at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the program’s leader, Dr Anthony Atala, explained, “This pilot study is the first to demonstrate that vaginal organs can be constructed in the lab and used successfully in humans.” He added, “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.”

The girls used in the initial test run were teenagers between the age of 13 and 18, and had the surgeries between 2005 and 2008.  All four girls have been noted to have been a success as follow-up visits confirm that their bodies accepted the transplants.

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The first woman to undergo the procedure eight years ago, has expressed that she has a normal functioning organ, and those sexually active report good things.  According to reports, the women have had no complaints regarding painful intercourse and do convey they have a healthy desire for sex.

The process to develop the lab-grown vaginas is actually quite extensive and begins by taking a sample of muscle and epithelial cells from the designated teen.  After this, lab technicians extract the cells from the tissue sample.

According to the Daily Mail, the cells are then, “expanded and then placed on a biodegradable material that was hand-sewn into a vagina-like shape.”  Each biodegradable material, called a scaffold, is custom sewn to fit the future cavity of its intended implantee.

After about 5 to six weeks after the tissue sample is taken, the women come in to have the procedure completed. At this time, a surgeon will create an adequate canal where the newly grown vagina will be sutured into place.

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According to their results, the doctors have found that the body usually adopts the implant as its own where, “nerves and blood vessels form and the cells expand and form tissue.” The results show that the body then bonds with the scaffold and eventually replaces the implant all together with a new organ.

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The results were so astounding in fact, that the Daily Mail reports that, “Follow-up testing on the lab-engineered vaginas showed the margin between native tissue and the engineered segments was indistinguishable.”

Let us know what you think of this amazing discovery by leaving a comment below.

(h/t: Daily Mail)

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