First lab-grown vaginas successfully transplanted in four women

11 Apr 2014

One of the transplanted vaginas from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina

For the first time, four vaginas have been successfully grown in a lab and transplanted into women who were born with abnormal or missing vaginas, marking yet another breakthrough in transplantable body organs.

The team from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina had been working with the four women in harvesting a number of their cells in order to create their own unique vaginas that could be accepted by the body.

The teenage girls taking part in in the study were born with a rare genetic condition known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, in which the vagina and uterus are underdeveloped or completely absent.

The treatment is also expected to have the potential to apply to patients with vaginal cancer or injuries, according to the researchers.

The original surgeries to implant the vaginas took place between 2005 and 2008, when the girls were between 13 and 18 years old and are now reported to have been a complete success as the four participants now say they are sexually active with no complications.

Amazingly, follow-up testing on the lab-engineered vaginas showed the margin between native tissue and the engineered segments was indistinguishable and that the scaffold of the implant would not be apparent to be a transplant.

Speaking about the importance of these findings, Anthony Atala, director of the institute and lead researcher said, “This pilot study is the first to demonstrate that vaginal organs can be constructed in the lab and used successfully in humans.”

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.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic