The Dawn Of A New Era Of Regenerative Medicine: Tissue Engineering Comes Of Age

The field of regenerative medicine reached a remarkable milestone recently when four women regained full sexual function after the successful implantation of lab-grown vaginas created from their own cells. The women, aged thirteen to eighteen, were born with a rare medical condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (MRKHS) which left them with an abnormal or missing vagina. Each woman underwent a newly engineered procedure that involved taking samples of the patient’s own cells and growing them into tissue. This tissue was then placed on a scaffold that was hand-sewn with collagen-like fibers and uniquely shaped to fit each woman’s vaginal cavity. Once the organ fully matured, it was implanted into a canal in each woman’s pelvis, along with the hand-sewn scaffolding. Within six months, the biodegradable scaffolding dissolved and, in each of the four women, the lab-grown vaginas began functioning like native working organs.

This procedure is a major step forward in the field of regenerative medicine and signifies the importance of using a patient’s own cells to grow new organs in order to eliminate the need for organ donors and immunosuppressant drugs. Until now, treatments for MRKHS have only involved surgical reconstruction. Moving forward, these lab-grown vaginas may also have the ability to help women whose genitals are destroyed or disfigured due to trauma and injury.

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Originally published on Forbes on July 13th, 2021

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.