WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Doctors at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have successfully grown and implanted vaginas into four young women.
The women, 13-18 years old, all have a condition known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, which causes the vaginal organ to be underdeveloped or absent. The success of the study was recently published in The Lancet.
"The team obtained a vulvar tissue biopsy from each patient from which they grew smooth muscle cells and vaginal epithelial cells in the lab. The cells were then placed onto specially designed vagina-shaped biodegradeable scaffolds and left to grow for 7 days. The researchers then surgically implanted the engineered vaginas, which remain structurally and functionally normal 8 years on," according to a news release from The Lancet.
Doctor Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, led the research team.
“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.”
Atala says half of women diagnosed with MRKH syndrome are unable to become pregnant. He says two of the women who participated in the clinical study are able to have children. However, the women have not gotten pregnant yet, so doctors do not know if natural child birth will be possible.