Four women have received vaginas grown from their own cells in a lab – and they are fully functional!
The women were suffering from vaginal aplasia, a rare condition in which the women’s vaginas did not fully form while in their mother’s womb. The women had normal looking labias, except their vaginas, cervixes and wombs never fully formed.
Doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina used scans of the pelvic region to design a tube like 3D-scaffold for each patient.
A small tissue biopsy was taken from the poorly developed vulva and grown to create a large batch of cells in the laboratory. Muscle cells were attached to the outside of the scaffold and vaginal-lining cells to the inside.
The vaginas were carefully grown in a bioreactor until they were suitable to be surgically implanted into the patients.
The surgeries were performed between 2005 and 2008. Atala and the team monitored the women for long-term complications before publishing the results in the medical journal The Lancet this week.
The scaffolding degraded in the months after surgery, leaving just the tissue. The tissue grew, forming the muscle and epithelial cells that make up the vaginal wall. Six months later, the patients were able to menstruate and have sexual intercourse for the first time. “After the operation they were able to function normally,” Atala told reporters.
Vaginal aplasia can lead to other abnormalities in the reproductive organs, but in two of the women the vagina was connected to the uterus. Thusly, for those, women pregnancy is theoretically possible.
“They had normal levels of desire, arousal, satisfaction and orgasm.” Some may also be able to have children. “I truly feel fortunate, because I’ll have a normal life – completely normal,” a patient who wished to remain anonymous said in a video provided by the hospital in Mexico. “It’s important to let other girls that have the same problem know that it does not end knowing that you have the disease, because there is a treatment.”
Science is expanding so rapidly right before our very eyes… What’s next?