Bionic vagina: new targets in tissue engineering

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Between 2005 and 2008, four American patients were implanted with a “bionic vagina” because affected by the syndrome of Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser, or MRKHS, a rare genetic condition that prevents the development of the uterus and vagina. Well, after several years, studies conducted by the research group of the Institute of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for Regenerative Medicine, led by Dr. Anthony Atala, have shown that the organs are functioning properly.

Vagina bionica, Close-up Engineering - Credits: bbc.com
Credits: bbc.com

The organs were created and developed in laboratory by laboratory culture of tissue cells of the same women. These cells were placed on biodegradable hand-sewn scaffold in the shape of the vagina. Outside of these structures were implanted muscle cells, and inside epithelial cells. When the system is carried out, have formed the nerves and blood vessels, and at the same time, the body began to absorb the biodegradable scaffold that has gradually been replaced by cells that have formed a real organ.

This is a new frontier of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering that may prevent women drawbacks with conventional regenerative methods. In fact, as regards the vaginal reconstruction, there are several methods. But it does not always work as they should. One of the most used methods is the “dilation”, which has a success equal to 90% of cases. The remaining 10% may use a surgical treatment that exploits the skin of other parts of the body -eg buttocks – to reconstruct the damaged parts or to make an expansion. The problem is that, however, the transplanted skin does not behave like the real vaginal tissue.
The team also successfully implanted engineered ureters in a bunch of kids.

It will be important to gain further clinical experience with this technique, the researchers said, to compare with surgical procedures now known and bring to light any advantages and limitations. Anyway, the “factory of the pieces of human body parts” is enriched with new parts.

Header image credits: goodnews.ws

 

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