London, 15 April-2014, Jason Koebler: For the first time ever, researchers have grown human vaginas in a laboratory and implanted them into women born with a rare disorder. The procedure has allowed each of the four women to have normally-functioning bodies.
In this photo issued by Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Yuanyuan Zhang, MD, PhD, assistant professor at the Institute, demonstrates the process to engineer a vaginal organ in a laboratory in Winston Salem, North Carolina. (Photo: AP)
The organs were grown by scientists at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine using cells from each patient’s genitals. The patients were born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome, in which a woman is born with an underdeveloped or absent vagina and uterus. Each patient was a teenager at the time of the surgeries, which were performed between 2005 and 2008. In follow-up surveys, the girls reported having normal sexual function and quality of life.
The cultured cells were grown on a scaffold like this. Image: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Each vagina was grown in the lab and then were “hand-sewn into a vagina-like shape.” Surgeons then artificially created a canal in each patient’s body and the lab-grown organs were stitched into it. Soon after, the body naturally built blood vessels and started creating new cells normally.
From the researchers’ paper, published in the Lancet, describing the process:
“In this pilot cohort study, they cultured, expanded, and seeded epithelial and muscle cells onto biodegradable scaffolds. After the constructed organs had matured in an incubator, these were implanted with a perineal approach. The investigators recorded the patients’ history and undertook physical examinations, vaginoscopy, serial tissue biopsy samples, MRIs, and self-administered Female Sexual Function Index questionnaires.
“This pilot study is the first to demonstrate that vaginal organs can be constructed in the lab and used successfully in humans,” Atala said in a statement. “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.”
Ivan Martin of University Hospital Basel, the study’s senior author, said none of the patients reported any side effects by one year after surgery, and all were satisfied with their new nostrils.
“Now that we have demonstrated this is safe and feasible, we can use (this technique) for more complicated clinical needs,” he said, adding that the same approach is being tested in people to supply knee cartilage. He said scientists were slowly gaining more expertise in making body parts, but predicted it could take another couple of decades before the process becomes mainstream.
“It’s not a trivial thing to engineer a functional tissue,” he said. [Input source: motherboard ]