Lab-grown vaginal organs which can be implanted into human patients are now a real thing in the world.
American and Mexican doctors and scientists carried out the surgery four times between June 2005 and October 2008, reports U.S. News.
The patients were all teenage girls between 13 and 18 years old who were suffering from a very rare condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome. As a result of the disease, the girls had either an underdeveloped uterus and vagina or no vagina at all.
Now, up to eight years later, the girls are grown women and follow-up analysis shows that the procedures appear to have been successful. The patients’ new organ tissue is integrated with their native tissue. Their organs function normally for all activities including sex.
In addition to helping MRKH syndrome sufferers, the operation could become a viable option for women with vaginal cancers and vaginal injuries.
The procedure could also become an option for men who want to undergo sex changes—but that would require FDA approval.
In The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, Dr. Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine explained the procedure.
“This pilot study is the first to demonstrate that vaginal organs can be constructed in the lab and used successfully in humans,” Atala wrote, according to the Daily Mail. “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.”
The Lancet article lays out the procedure in great detail. It involves a biopsy of the external genitals of each patient, and the removal of certain cells. Those cells are then sent to a facility where technicians sew them into a “tailor-made” “vagina-like shape” referred to as a “scaffold,” explains U.S. News.
Doctors then sewed the scaffold into each patient’s body.
“They now have their own organ, made out of their own tissue, so the body did recognize it as being their own. In fact, the organ grew as the patients grew,” Atala told U.S. News.
The same basic process has worked in the past for bladders and urethras.