The artificial vaginas, engineered from the patient’s own cells and individually made to fit them, allowed the women to later have full sex lives. As well as being a breakthrough in vaginal reconstruction, the US and Mexican scientists responsible for the procedures said it potentially meant other tissues or organs could be laboratory grown and implanted.
“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 patients, who were between 13 and 18, were all born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome (PDF), a rare genetic condition in which the vagina and uterus are underdeveloped or absent.
Follow-up tests over a number of years – the first of the implants took place eight years ago, although findings have only just been reported – found the engineered vaginas worked as hoped, with the women reporting they were able to have sex normally, without pain.
Atala said: “Yearly tissue biopsy samples show that the reconstructed tissue is histologically and functionally similar to normal vaginal tissue. This technique is a viable option for vaginal reconstruction and has several advantages over current reconstructive methods because only a small biopsy of tissue is required, and using vaginal cells may reduce complications that arise from using non-vaginal tissue, such as infection and graft shrinkage.”
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