Scientists in the US have successfully implanted “lab-grown” vaginas in four women with a rare condition who were born without reproductive organs.
The extraordinary procedures, carried out between 2005 and 2008, have proved a long-term success, with all four patients, who were between 13 and 18 at the time of operation, able to become sexually active without any discomfort.
It is the first time that vaginas grown from the patient’s own cells have been implanted and the experts behind the procedure said it was superior to the existing reconstructive methods.
All four patients had been diagnosed with the rare Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome. Women with MRKH are born without vagina, cervix or womb. It affects one in every 5,000 women.
The new technique, which has been trialled by a team of scientists in the US and Mexico, saw the four patients undergo a biopsy to remove tissue from the vulva, which was used to create cells in the lab. The cells were then placed in biodegradable, vagina-shaped “scaffold”, hand-sewn and tailor made for the patient and left to grow.
Researchers then surgically implanted the scaffolds, which once implanted, lad to expansion of nerves and blood vessels to form tissue. As the biodegradable material is absorbed into the body the cells form into a permanent organ.