Skip

lab-grown vagina
April 11, 2014 1:41 AM   Subscribe

Four women have had new vaginas grown in the laboratory and implanted by doctors in the US. "A tissue sample and a biodegradable scaffold were used to grow vaginas in the right size and shape for each woman as well as being a tissue match. They all reported normal levels of "desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction" and painless intercourse. Experts said the study, published in the Lancet, was the latest example of the power of regenerative medicine. "
posted by marienbad (38 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
We live in the future. How cool is that? (Also, I am impressed that this was done 8 years ago and only reported now ... rather than breathless reporting on what might be, it is reporting of what actually is.)
posted by chavenet at 1:50 AM on April 11 [6 favorites]


Want.
posted by Dysk at 2:00 AM on April 11 [8 favorites]


"Really for the first time we've created a whole organ that was never there to start with, it was a challenge."

Well there is an understatement. Amazing.

It's also interesting to note that this was developed at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in Winston-Salem NC - an academic teaching hospital the type of which is common across the US. Say what you will about the state of medical care in the United States, the US healthcare system for all its flaws remains a leading innovator and one should be very careful not to throw out that baby with the bathwater.
posted by three blind mice at 2:16 AM on April 11 [3 favorites]


I wonder if this could eventually be used to help at least younger victims of FGM? That would be great. It's wonderful this is available for victims of aplasia.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:40 AM on April 11 [6 favorites]




Wow, that is very cool. I hope this new technique helps as many people as possible!

At first I thought that they meant to write vulva, but it seems like they do really mean vagina. Now I'm wondering if it will become possible to grow vulvas, too. I bet that would make some people very happy.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:48 AM on April 11


Think bigger. We should be able to grow hearts, lungs, or livers which we can then implant with no risk of rejection. Tissue engineering is great!

Growing a new brain, however, might be problematic for obvious reasons.
posted by Justinian at 2:56 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


This is very cool.
posted by Solomon at 3:16 AM on April 11


[Jokey comment deleted. So, hey, I was just checking this out in one of the Reddit subs where a moderator said they had deleted hundreds of joke comments. I fully expect that we can avoid the same situation here. Right?]
posted by taz at 3:51 AM on April 11 [15 favorites]


Think bigger

You know it.

All kidding aside, something like 0.6% of men are born with a "micropenis". Having the ability to grow a normal-sized is bound to be popular.
posted by flippant at 3:51 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


This is amazing. I'm excited for the future use of this technology enabling women to change their bodies.

Having the ability to grow a normal-sized is bound to be popular.

Just a suggestion: try not to use the word "normal" in a discussion about the size and shape of a person's body parts, especially genitalia. Normal is subjective.
posted by fight or flight at 3:56 AM on April 11 [7 favorites]


This is so cool. I bet it'll be great for trans women and nonbinary folks too.

I'm guessing this isn't *too* close to creating new or expanded phalluses, though, flippant-- that's much more analogous to the clitoris than the vagina. (I also hope I don't end up in a world where a lot of men feel pressured to get larger penises, since that could make a lot of receiving partners somewhat more physically uncomfortable during sex and it could be a pretty unnecessary procedure, but I do hope that we're able to get genital surgeries in general to a point where people are at a urinary and sexual functioning that they're happy with.)
posted by NoraReed at 3:57 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


Vaginal aplasia can lead to other abnormalities in the reproductive organs, but in two of the women the vagina was connected to the uterus.

Whoa. I wonder - is part of the reason this was one of the first successful applications of tissue engineering because the organ involved was relatively simple? It looks like they grew the vaginas on biodegradable scaffolds. I've heard the biggest obstacle to building something more complex, like a heart, is getting the network of blood vessels and nerves to form properly.

Still, this is very neat. future
posted by heathkit at 3:58 AM on April 11


Awww, this is nuthin', future-wise. Just wait till they start cranking out designer organs that humans don't have.
posted by XMLicious at 4:03 AM on April 11 [8 favorites]


It seems to me that part of the challenge to this was working with at least two layers -- supporting muscle and then the tissue lining -- getting them to both grow at the right rate, adhere where they were supposed to, etc. Even given that this is a relatively simple organ (few layers, not involved in life support, and so on), it must have been quite the effort to get all the factors right. Age of Wonders, indeed.

It does bring us a little close to this scenario I predicted, however....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:15 AM on April 11


I wonder whether this would benefit male-to-female transitioning.
posted by oddman at 4:38 AM on April 11


I wonder whether this would benefit male-to-female transitioning.

Well, in these cases the tissue was started with a biopsy from the poorly developed vulva. If you weren't born with a vulva I don't think this particular technique would work, but I'm sure growing replacement genetalia will be a standard part of gender reassignment surgery once this is more developed.
posted by heathkit at 5:15 AM on April 11


This reminds me of the ghost heart, which hasn't been implanted in humans but is nonetheless fascinating. The human body is apparently very good at coloring within the lines after being given the structure it needs to fill.
posted by kaytwo at 5:47 AM on April 11


In terms of trans women, it's very possible something like this would be helpful in effectively providing the benefits of a colovaginoplasty (a graft of colon tissue used to form the vaginal lining) - easier dilation, arguably better self-lubrication, no reliance on quantity of penile tissue - without the downsides. But there are so many more elements to a full vaginoplasty which (as far as I've read) weren't part of this procedure that I don't see it as particularly revolutionary for reassignment surgery, so much as an amazing piece of work in its own right and potentially a stepping stone.
posted by emmtee at 5:47 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


Just a suggestion: try not to use the word "normal" in a discussion about the size and shape of a person's body parts, especially genitalia. Normal is subjective.

I understand where you're coming from, but disagree this time. I wrote normal-sized. Size (length, girth) being a quantifiable measure of penis size, and one that has been established, albeit with small variations between studies (even including regional variations; alas, self-reported).

Anyway, ending derail.
posted by flippant at 6:18 AM on April 11 [3 favorites]


It's also interesting to note that this was developed at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in Winston-Salem NC - an academic teaching hospital the type of which is common across the US. Say what you will about the state of medical care in the United States, the US healthcare system for all its flaws remains a leading innovator and one should be very careful not to throw out that baby with the bathwater.
I don't really disagree, but if you got to the end of the article, you would see that researchers at a university in Switzerland have used a similar technique to grow new noses for people whose noses were disfigured due to skin cancer. The US is the only country in the developed world that doesn't provide its citizens with universal access to healthcare. We're not the only country in the developed world where cutting-edge medical research takes place. It's possible to have both things at the same time.

I'm curious about how far away we are from being able to grow people replacement heart valves made of their own tissue.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:19 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


the tissue was started with a biopsy from the poorly developed vulva

The Wake Forest press release -- in addition to giving more technical details -- identifies the four subjects as having Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome.

a similar technique to grow new noses

Which gives us this wonderful mad lib of a title: Lab grown nostrils, vaginas working well.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:26 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


I wrote normal-sized. Size (length, girth) being a quantifiable measure of penis size, and one that has been established, albeit with small variations between studies (even including regional variations; alas, self-reported).

But the problem here isn't that there isn't a quantifiable to compare to, but several other problems.

1: What deviation from average is considered "normal-sized"? And who gets to choose?

2: Is there any benefit of being concerned (personally) with being "normal-sized"? Because there are many downsides of feeling abnormal. The world "normal" means (at least to me) included in the group, without a significant hindrance, able to keep up with the pack, etc.

3: Can't we, as a community, work toward the halt of comparing our bodies to each other? I don't care if I'm normal colored, normal gendered, normal sized, normal weight, normal height. The words are meaningless, I am unable to change these things anyway, and the concept of existing a "normal" removes the beauty of differences between people.

I personally think that every dollar spent on measuring people to see if they are "normal-sized" was wasted, and maybe instead they could have hired photographers to show everyone how beautiful/handsome they look, no matter what size they are.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:28 AM on April 11 [4 favorites]


Medical definitons of normal or abnormal do not concern themselves with people's self-esteem, and probably shouldn't. Getting measurements of a large population group of people is science, not a waste of time.
posted by agregoli at 6:35 AM on April 11 [12 favorites]


I refuse to be impressed until anyone can print one on the 3-D printer at their local library with $5 in quarters and a dream.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:36 AM on April 11 [5 favorites]


Medical definitons of normal or abnormal do not concern themselves with people's self-esteem, and probably shouldn't. Getting measurements of a large population group of people is science, not a waste of time.

I really have an open mind about this, I was just trying to share my own opinion. Do you have any medical or peer-reviewed resources where I can learn more about the medical uses or contexts of the specific word "normal", and the science behind measuring genitalia size? Would that fall under anthropology?

I'm trying to search google and my schools library of journals but I'm coming up blank.

My previous hypothesis was that "normal" doesn't matter as much as "not harming the individual" but I am totally willing to accept an alternative :)
posted by bbqturtle at 6:41 AM on April 11


I understand where you're coming from, but disagree this time. I wrote normal-sized. Size (length, girth) being a quantifiable measure of penis size, and one that has been established, albeit with small variations between studies (even including regional variations; alas, self-reported).

I think you mean 'average', rather than 'normal'.

That said, how freaking awesome is science? Seriously, this is super cool.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:42 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


I refuse to be impressed until anyone can print one on the 3-D printer at their local library with $5 in quarters and a dream.

You don't have to clean the library, do you? The moment people can print organs at the library will be a sad sad day for housekeeping.

That aside, how did a thread about growing vagina tissue turn into a discussion of penis size? It is a puzzle.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:13 AM on April 11 [13 favorites]


With this, the freezing people and bringing them back study and the crazy advances in prosthetics/bionics medical science is starting to feel like the late 80s IT industry.
Eventually, "Facebook? Sure, we can turn your face into a book."
posted by fullerine at 7:16 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


print one on the 3-D printer at their local library with $5 in quarters and a dream.

"Where's Jimmy?"

"He's down at the library again with his friends."

"They sure do spend a lot of time there."

"Got that right! Who knew teenage boys loved reading so much?"
posted by Panjandrum at 7:26 AM on April 11 [7 favorites]


Finally I can grow a pair.... of nostrils.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:37 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


That aside, how did a thread about growing vagina tissue turn into a discussion of penis size? It is a puzzle.

It isn't really.
posted by Wolof at 7:41 AM on April 11 [21 favorites]


Human hangups about sex seem to be getting in the way of noticing that a complex human bodypart was grown and implanted - with full function - in patients who are now healthy.

This is ground breaking and amazing - one of the promises "of the future" that seems to be tipping over into reality in a cascade of awesome: lab-grown organs. If a pancreas or liver seems cancerous or pre-cancerous, clone it, grow it, and rip out the old one - no more chemo or radiation therapy. Lab-grown lungs are a cure for black lung and silicosis. This means never being on a "waiting list" for a lifesaving transplant, or wondering who's heart you have.

A vagina is a very complex organ with a lot of functions and deep integration with the nervous system. It's an amazing step that heralds hope for the hopeless. Way awesome.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:45 AM on April 11 [6 favorites]


“Why? In the sink… is your vagina?”

“Why? I mean, darling. It was dirty.”
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:47 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


... The vaginas were carefully grown in a bioreactor ....

The use of the word 'bioreactor' should be a sure sign that you're reading science fiction. Wild.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:49 AM on April 11 [4 favorites]


This is so fucking amazing I don't even have words. Thanks for posting it!
posted by corb at 9:58 AM on April 11


Well. That headline sure made my ears perk up - I'm a transwoman who is kinda shopping around and deciding who to have her genitals reconstructed by.

There's at least one surgeon whose page on their procedure briefly mentions growing new tissue in the lab as a possible part of the process, but I can't find them right now. I'm pretty sure they're one in the US even, so there's multiple people working in this domain, which makes me pretty happy - I'd certainly like to have the option of having a set of bits that properly lubricates itself without having to snip out a bit of my intestines to fake it!
posted by egypturnash at 5:16 PM on April 11


We live in the future. How cool is that?

Mind-bogglingly cool.
posted by homunculus at 7:02 PM on April 12


« Older A book that reads as satire to adults &...   |   Barbie girl in a not so Barbie world Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post