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Scientists Have Successfully Grown and Implanted Vaginas in Four Women

Illustration for article titled Scientists Have Successfully Grown and Implanted Vaginas in Four Women

Four women born with abnormal or missing vaginas were recently implanted with lab-grown replacements created from their own cells. All four women are now sexually active and report normal vaginal function.

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Photo Credit: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative MediciNE via Reuters

Via U.S. News & World Report:

The organs... were implanted between June 2005 and October 2008 in four teenage girls who each lacked or had an underdeveloped vagina and uterus, the result of a rare genetic condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome.

Years after the two-hour procedures, annual follow-up visits showed that the surgeries had been a success: The new organs functioned normally, including during sex, and their tissue was indistinguishable from the native tissue that had already been there.

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Researchers led by Anthony Atala, director of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina describe their research in the latest issue of The Lancet – including what, exactly, they mean when they mean by "normally functioning organs":

We noted no long-term postoperative surgical complications. Yearly serial biopsies showed a tri-layered structure, consisting of an epithelial cell-lined lumen surrounded by matrix and muscle, with expected components of vaginal tissue present. Immunohistochemical analysis confirmed the presence of phenotypically normal smooth muscle and epithelia. The MRIs, which showed the extent of the vaginal aplasia before surgery, showed the engineered organs and the absence of abnormalities after surgery, which was confirmed with yearly vaginoscopy. A validated self-administered Female Sexual Function Index questionnaire showed variables in the normal range in all areas tested, such as desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and painless intercourse.

This is huge news for people with MRKH syndrome and victims of vaginal cancers and injuries. It could one day even become an option for people seeking looking to undergo genital reassignment surgery.

The procedure probably still has a ways to go before it's approved by the FDA (the present trial took place in Mexico). Still, it's terrifically exciting news. One can't help but wonder if the long-awaited lab-grown penis isn't far behind.

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[The Lancet via U.S. News]

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DISCUSSION

Pope Somhairle, Bishop of Evans, Pine, Hemsworth, Anti-Pratt

It should be said that THIS is way more impressive than turning water into wine. I can take five minutes to go to a grocer and pick up a half-decent bottle of wine, but there is no shop for "like-new vagina".

My question is what the implication is on transgender issues. Will this technique allow for male-growth vagina or the possible utilization of genetic engineering to allow for just that? Or will this be a technique relegated, brilliantly as though it is even now, to same-gender procedure?