Lab-Grown Private Parts: Vagina Implants Cure Rare Disorder
April 25, 2014
Four young women born with abnormal or missing vaginas have gained full sexual function after scientists engineered and implanted new laboratory-grown organs created from the patients’ own cells, researchers reported Thursday.
It’s the first time vaginas constructed on scaffolds outside the body have been used successfully to treat a rare and distressing medical condition known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, or MRKHS — but it also holds potential for women who are victims of cancer or trauma, said Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
“Basically, what we do is engineer organs for conditions which are challenging,” said Atala, whose team created bladders that shocked the world in 2006 as the first lab-grown organs successfully implanted in humans.
In the new study, published Thursday in the journal The Lancet, Atala and colleagues report that four girls from Mexico City, Mexico, born with MRKHS received custom-made vaginas implanted between June 2005 and October 2008.
“There are other options out there, but they’re not ideal,” Atala said. “For us, there is no better source than the patients’ own cells.”
The scientists took samples of the patients’ cells and then grew them in a federally certified tissue lab. Those cells were placed on a biodegradable scaffolding hand-sewn in the shape of vaginas, Atala said. Muscle cells were seeded on the outside of the structures, and epithelial cells, those that line the bodies’ cavities, were placed on the inside.
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