In a breakthrough in vaginal reconstructive surgery, scientists announced on Thursday that four vaginas grown in laboratories have successfully been implanted in teenage patients.
The engineered organs, grown from cells biopsied from the patients' own vulvas, have now remained safely implanted for years, demonstrating for the first time that vaginas, grown from a patient's own cells, can be created in a lab and then successfully implanted.
The four women who underwent the surgery were all born with a rare, congenital condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, in which the vagina or uterus is underdeveloped or absent. They underwent surgery between 2005 and 2008, with about a week in the hospital, according to the study.
The women were between 13 and 18-years-old at the time of surgery.
Follow-up tests and surveys performed for five to eight years after implantation found that sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and painless intercourse were at normal levels in each of the patients.
To grow the vaginas, the team took cells from patients' vulvas, and then cultured the cells around a biodegradeable scaffold. Finally, the entire scaffold was implanted in the patients. Producing the vaginal organ took between five and six weeks in a laboratory.
MRIs and vaginoscopy confirmed a lack of abnormalities in the engineered organs years after implantation, leading researchers to conclude that, "The use of engineered tissues, using autologous seeded cells and implanted, is a viable option for vaginal reconstruction."
This video, from New Scientist, shows how the culturing process works!