Here’s a heart-warming wonders of modern science story out of Mexico. Engineered vaginas grown in women for the first time.
Doctors attempted the experimental surgery 4-8 years ago on four Mexican teenagers suffering from Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser Syndrome. Women with MRKH have normal vulvas and ovaries, but their vaginas and uteruses are undeveloped or absent.
According to the study published in Lancet, all four women now have “fully functioning sexual organs”.
The process used to create and implant the lab-grown vaginas is mind-blowing (not a recognized scientific term, but appropriate here I believe):
Atala and his colleagues removed a small part of the vulva from each woman and grew the cells in the lab. After about four weeks they had enough cells to begin to lay them on to a degradable scaffold one layer at a time “like the layers of a cake”, he says.
The challenge was how to get the cells to grow to the right level of maturity in the lab, says Atala. You need to make sure that the cells are mature enough so that when you implant them into the body, they can recruit other cells in the body to form tissue that includes nerves and blood vessels.
[The] team used MRI scans to calculate the appropriate shape and size of the scaffolds for each patient. After cells had established themselves on these scaffolds, surgeons created a cavity in the abdomen and inserted the engineered vagina. It was then stitched in place, connected at the top to the uterus.
The vagina was fully developed after six months, and the women were able to menstruate and have sex.
New Scientist posted an 80-second video (SFW and thoroughly unarousing) of the procedure to YouTube:
The same basic technique has been used to grow other organs in a lab, like nostrils and windpipes. No doubt the possible applications will become more advanced over time. What a glorious age we live in.