Lab-grown vaginas prove long-term success for four women born without one

 

Health Reporter

Scientists in the USA have completed the first successful implants of “lab-grown” vaginal organs, in four women with a rare condition who were born without a vagina.

The extraordinary procedures, carried out between 2005 and 2008, have proved a long-term success, with all four patients, who were aged between 13 and 18 at the time of the operation, able to become sexually active without any discomfort.

It is the first time that vaginas grown from the patient’s own cells have been implanted and the experts behind the procedure said it had was superior to existing reconstructive methods.

All four patients had been diagnosed with the rare Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome. Women with MHRK are born without a vagina, cervix, or womb. It affects one in every 5,000 women.

Existing treatments for women living with MHRK include stretching the small amount of vaginal tissue present, and women are usually able to have comfortable sex but are unable to become pregnant.

The new technique, which has been trialled by a team of scientists in the USA and Mexico, led by Professor Anthony Atala of the Wake School of Medicine, saw the four patients undergo a biopsy to remove tissue from the vulva, which was used to cells in the lab. The cells were then placed on a biodegradable, vagina-shaped “scaffold”, hand-sewn and tailor made for the patient, and left to grow.

Researchers then surgically implanted the scaffolds, which once implanted, lead to expansions of nerves and blood vessels, which form tissue. As the biodegradable material is absorbed into the body the cells form into a permanent organ.

As many as eight years later, patients reported normal sexual function, and no pain. Because women with MHRK do not have a developed womb, the patients were unable to become pregnant. However, women with the condition can produce eggs, which can be used for IVF treatment.

“This technique is a viable option for vaginal reconstruction and has several advantages over current reconstructive methods because only a small biopsy of tissue is required and using vaginal cells may reduce complications that arise from using non-vaginal tissue, such as infection,” said Professor Atala.

Engineering organs for transplant from patients own tissue is a growing field of science which some experts believe could one day replace the need for organ donors. However, the procedures carried out by Professor Atala and his team represent only the first successful attempts and widespread clinical use is a long way off.

In another first, scientists in Switzerland have used similar techniques to reconstruct the nostrils of five patients, using cells from their nasal septum. The technique could be used to treat people who have had parts of their nose removed to prevent non-melanoma skin cancer, which commonly occurs on the skin of the nose, the researchers said.  

A year after the procedure, all five patients said they were happy with both their ability to breathe with the engineered nostrils, and with their appearance.

Both studies are published in The Lancet medical journal today.

Martin Birchall, professor of laryngology at University College London and one of the UK’s leading ear, nose and throat surgeons, said that the findings “start to edge tissue engineering towards the mainstream of organ and tissue replacement needs”.

“These authors have not only successfully treated several patients with a difficult clinical problem, but addressed some of the most important questions facing translation of tissue engineering technologies,” he said, adding it was time for the healthcare industry to take the new tissue engineering techniques seriously and speed their development.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album