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Patients Doing Well After Receiving Laboratory-Grown Vaginas

Update Date: Apr 11, 2014 09:44 AM EDT

According to scientists, laboratory-grown vaginas can be successfully implanted into human patients. In this study, the scientists detailed how they created vaginal organs using the patient's own cells. The organs were then implanted into four teenage patients, who have all been doing well since the procedure.

"This pilot study is the first to demonstrate that vaginal organs can be constructed in the lab and used successfully in humans," said Anthony Atala, M.D, director of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Institute for Regenerative Medicine reported by Medical Xpress. "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 study involved four teenage girls who were between the ages of 13 and 18 at the time of their surgeries, which took place from June 2005 to October 2008. The teenage girls were all born with an extremely rare genetic condition known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, which occurs when the uterus and vagina are either absent are underdeveloped. After the procedures, the researchers had conducted annual follow-up visits. Some of the tests included tissue biopsies, MRI scans and internal exams.

The researchers found all organs had normal functions up to eight years after the surgery. The female patients also reported normal sexual function post treatment. Sexual function, which includes desire and pain-free intercourse, was measured using the Female Sexual Function Index questionnaire.

The vaginal organs were created using muscle and epithelial cells that were taken from each patient's external genitals. These cells helped develop the structure of the vagina. Each organ scaffold was tailor made to fit each individual patient. Roughly five to six weeks post biopsy, the cell-seeded biodegradable scaffolds were implanted into a canal located in the patient's' pelvis. Over time, the body absorbed the scaffolding structure. Cells started to lay down materials that led to the development of a permanent support structure, which became the vagina. This type of regenerative medicine has the potential to help people with types of injuries.

The study was published in The Lancet.

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