Medical

Bio-engineered vaginas grown from patients' own cells

Bio-engineered vaginas grown f...
Biodegradable scaffolding material, seeded with a test subject's cells and sewn into a vaginal shape
Biodegradable scaffolding material, seeded with a test subject's cells and sewn into a vaginal shape
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The biodegradable scaffolding material
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The biodegradable scaffolding material
Epithelial cells are added to one side of the material
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Epithelial cells are added to one side of the material
The scaffold is placed in an incubator
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The scaffold is placed in an incubator
The other side of the scaffold is then coated with smooth muscle cells
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The other side of the scaffold is then coated with smooth muscle cells
A second period of incubation is required
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A second period of incubation is required
Biodegradable scaffolding material, seeded with a test subject's cells and sewn into a vaginal shape
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Biodegradable scaffolding material, seeded with a test subject's cells and sewn into a vaginal shape
An MRI showing one of the lab-engineered vaginas in place
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An MRI showing one of the lab-engineered vaginas in place
The research was led by Dr. Anthony Atala
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The research was led by Dr. Anthony Atala
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Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome is a genetic condition in which girls are born either without a vagina, or with one that's underdeveloped. While there are ways of addressing the situation, they're not without their drawbacks. Now, however, four young women have shown great success with implanted vaginal organs that were grown from their own cells.

All of the test subjects were born with MRKH, and were between 13 and 18 years old when the procedure was performed between 2005 and 2008.

A team from North Carolina's Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, led by Dr. Anthony Atala, started by harvesting muscle and epithelial cells (the latter of which line cavities within the body) from each girl's existing external genitals. Those cells were then "seeded" into a biodegradable scaffolding-like material, which was hand-sewn into a vagina-like shape that was designed to fit the participant.

The biodegradable scaffolding material
The biodegradable scaffolding material

About five to six weeks later, the team surgically created a canal in each girl's pelvis, then grafted her custom-fit scaffold into it. From that point on, the cells in the material grew into muscle and epithelial tissue, while neighboring cells also grew into the scaffold, gradually replacing it as it biodegraded into the body.

In the years since, all of the participants have reported for regular follow-up visits. It was found that in all cases, "the engineered vaginas were similar in makeup and function to native tissue," with the scaffolding having developed into regular tri-layer vaginal tissue. Additionally, all of the now-adult test subjects have reported normal sexual function, with pain-free intercourse and feelings of desire.

An MRI showing one of the lab-engineered vaginas in place
An MRI showing one of the lab-engineered vaginas in place

"This pilot study is the first to demonstrate that vaginal organs can be constructed in the lab and used successfully in humans," said Atala. "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."

With traditional MRKH treatments, which include the surgical construction of vaginas using skin grafts, there is often no muscle tissue in the resulting organ, plus complications such as a narrowing of the vagina can occur.

A paper on the Wake Forest research was published today in the journal The Lancet.

Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

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4 comments
editor-b
Obviously, biotechnology will produce a new nature, radically different and hardly imaginable nowadays. Even so, will life always be life? Indeed, is the life that is in a cell the same life that is in a monkey or a human being, dully or wisely engineered? And beyond the marvellous specific benefits, what place will the whole of human beings and their traditions have in this new biotech nature? What place those aged societies that do not integrate fully within these biological products? Will biotechnology inevitably produce a new species, will humanity diverge again as the branch of a tree? Is the current production-economic system demanding these changes, its driving-force? Or rather, is the goal to maintain an excellent health of the population? Is the latter credible in a world that is full of competition and enmity? Is it credible when there is hunger in a planet full of protein, where human beings are hungry meanwhile a weed of the field lives without problems?
Mel Tisdale
It must be awful for girls who have this condition, so anything that might help alleviate it can only be for the good, surely?
frogola
it's about time :)
Zerozen
Finally!!! no more of that asking the neonatal doctors for "couple more stitches plz!". Rejoice, it can be tighthen and fresh.