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Lab-engineered human vagina proven successful

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Dr. Anthony Atala, director of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and an international group of colleagues reported the first successful implantation and growth of lab-grown vaginae in women in the April 10, 2014, issue of the journal Lancet. Atlantida-Raya Rivera, director of the HIMFG Tissue Engineering Laboratory at the MRKH in Mexico City, oversaw the patients involved in the study.

Four girls between 13 and 18 years old who were born with Mayer-Rokitansky-K├╝ster-Hauser syndrome, a genetic condition in which the vagina and uterus are underdeveloped or absent, received lab-grown vaginae that were initially cultured from the epithelial cells of the girls existing external genitalia. All the girls were from Mexico.

After the cells began to develop in the lab, the cells were attached to a biodegradable scaffold that was shaped like a normal vagina. The apparatus was surgically implanted in the four girls and produced normal growth. The scaffolding was absorbed by the body as the nerve and blood vessels grew in the implanted tissue.

Rigorous observation of the development of the implanted vaginal tissue was conducted for up to eight years after the initial implantation and all four lab-grown vaginae demonstrated normal growth, development, size, and shape. Visual exams, biopsies, manual examinations, and MRI scans confirmed the normal growth of the vaginae.

This development offers a workable alternative to present surgical, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy procedures for vaginal cancer, uterine cancer, and birth defects or accidents that concern the vagina. The research demonstrates that any epithelial cells can be chemically adapted and induced to produce totally functioning vaginae and uteri.

To date none of the women involved in the new procedure have become pregnant. The researchers insist that there is no physical evidence that would suggest the women could not conceive and bear children normally with the lab-grown vaginae.

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