A long time dream of pretty much every nerdy heterosexual teenage boy with no game has come true: Vaginas can now be created in a lab!
Perhaps it’s not in the exact way these kids imagined it – and definitely not for the same purpose – but I’m guessing once they pictured vaginas, all the hows and whens became blurry anyway.
You see, in a study done at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, they were able to grow vaginal organs in a laboratory and implant them successfully on four teenage girls using their own cells.
All four of these girls were born with a rare condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, where the vagina and uterus are underdeveloped or missing. Approximately one in every 4,500 women is affected by this condition.
In the past, these vaginal reconstructions used skin tissues from their buttocks or their intestinal tracts, but since those tissues didn’t react the way a vagina would, the results weren’t optimal. However, Dr. Anthony Atala and his team at Wake Forest came up with this new method using muscle and cells from the patient’s external genitals, developing them from a small biopsy sample that is reportedly less than half the size of a postage stamp. After four weeks, these are placed on a biodegradable material that is hand-sewn into a vagina-like shape, growing into a form similar to that of a champagne glass. After another week, the surgeons suture this scaffold to the patient’s existing internal reproductive organs, allowing the nerves and blood vessels to form and the scaffold cells expand and form the tissue that will become their new vagina.
The four recipients underwent surgery between June 2005 and October 2008, and years later the findings showed the organs had retained normal function. The patients also filled out a Female Sexual Function Index questionnaire in which they reported to have regular sexual function, pain-free intercourse and sexual desire.
This method promises to be useful for vaginal reconstructions in the future, and not limited to MRKH, but also other congenital syndromes, as well as vaginal cancer and varied injuries.