Just yesterday we shared the awesome news about the first successful regeneration of a living organ in a mammal, and today we can happily share the news that four teenage girls born with a vulva and uterus but without a vagina (due to Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser Syndrome) have had long-term success with lab-grown vagina implants.
Dr. Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine has already built replacement human urethras and bladders using stem cells. Other researchers have built upon his research to rejuvenate the livers of rats (and, as we all know, rats are filthy drunks who always need new livers, the sots).
Atala’s team took samples from the women’s vulvas and grew them on a degradable scaffold made of collagen in a lab. Once they’d reached the right level of maturity, the doctors inserted the engineered vagina into a cavity they’d formed in the patients’ abdomens. The scaffold was attached to the uterus and a stent was used to hold it in place for the first six weeks. After just six months, the vagina was fully developed. Depending on the patient, Atala waited between four and eight years before publishing his findings to ensure there were no complications. There weren’t.
“After the operation they were able to function normally. They had normal levels of desire, arousal, satisfaction and orgasm,” Atala told the press. When asked whether the women could give birth, he sounded optimistic. “They haven’t tried,” he said, “but they can ovulate, so there is no reason to suspect that they cannot.”
Atlantida-Raya Rivera at the HIMFG Tissue Engineering Laboratory in Mexico City (where the surgeries were performed) also pointed out that “tissue biopsies, MRI scans and internal exams using magnification all showed that the engineered vaginas were similar in makeup and function to native tissue.”
Well, that’s completely awesome, and it’s great to hear the four girls have a normal sex life and possibly the ability to have kids if they choose. But they still have a long way to go to catch up to Hazel Jones.