Doctors implant vaginas grown in lab
Women who were born with vaginal aplasia—a condition in which the vagina does not form properly while inside a mother’s womb—are experiencing the benefits of vagina implants that were grown in a laboratory.
The new study involved four women with vaginal aplasia who were in their teenage years. Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina scanned the participants’ pelvic regions and took a small tissue biopsy from the vulva. This data allowed the doctors to design tube-like 3D-scaffolds and grow a large batch of cells. They created the actual vagina by attaching muscle cells to the outside of the tube and vaginal-lining cells to the inside. The implants were then grown in a bioreactor—a container that is used to hold organisms so that their natural biochemical processes can be carried out.
The first vagina implants took place about eight years ago, but this is the first time the results have been reported. The researchers from Wake Forest said this was the first time they’ve created a whole organ that was never there to begin with, but their study proved successful. After receiving the implants, the women involved in the study all reported normal levels of “desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction” and painless intercourse. Researchers also said that there have been no pregnancies in the women yet, but with their vagina implants, it is theoretically possible.
The study’s results, published in the Lancet, suggest that vagina implants may take the place of current vaginal aplasia treatments, which involve surgically creating a cavity and lining it with skin grafts or parts of the intestine. However, larger trials with long-term follow up are needed before vagina implants can be used in routine clinical care.