(Photo of vaginal scaffold by Dr. Yuanyuan Zhang)
Medical researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center grew human vaginas in a laboratory setting, then successfully implanted them in patients. More than 8 years after the transplants, those vaginas are fully functional.
The researchers led by Dr. Anthony Atala published their results in a recent issue of Lancet. The project began by taking small tissue samples from patients, then growing those samples into larger pieces of flesh. Then they implanted those nascent organs in patients along a biodegradable scaffolding that provided a champagne glass-like shape for the organ to grow on.
The transplants took place in 2005 and 2008. Four patients who participated in the study report that they now have normal sexual function as a result. Dr. Atala said that this new approach could be beneficial to other women who have experienced vaginal injury or cancer.