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 Italian Doctor Builds New, More Natural Vagina

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PostSubject: Italian Doctor Builds New, More Natural Vagina   Fri Sep 21, 2007 12:01 am

Italian Doctor Builds New, More Natural Vagina

Reuters ^ | 5/30/2007 | Stephen Brown






An Italian doctor has reconstructed vaginas for two women born with a
rare congenital deformation, using their own cells to build vaginal
tissue in the lab for the first time.



Dr. Cinzia Marchese of Rome's Policlinico Umberto I hospital, giving
details of the operations on Wednesday, told Reuters a 28-year-old
woman who underwent the first such operation a year ago now has a
healthy vagina.



"She has got married and is living a normal life," said Marchese, whose
study has been published in the journal Human Reproduction.



The second operation was carried out on a 17-year-old girl on Tuesday
and the first signs are that the cells taken by biopsy from the area
where her vagina should grow and provide mucosal tissue.



Mucosal tissue is found inside the vagina, the mouth and elsewhere in
the body and has important attributes distinct from ordinary skin.



The two women had a condition called Mayer-Von Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser
Syndrome, or MRKHS for short, which affects an estimated one in 4,000
to 5,000 female infants.



Girls with the syndrome are born with no vagina. The patient often has
a normal uterus, ovaries and external secondary sexual organs such as
breasts, but cannot have sexual intercourse or give birth.



"Usually the syndrome is diagnosed when they are young and they try to
have sexual intercourse for the first time and it hurts," said
Marchese.



Often embarrassed to talk about it with their parents when they are
young, MRKHS sufferers often "live the rest of their lives with no
normal sexual life, even though they are normal women with normal
feelings," she said.



So far, surgeons have been able to correct the condition by
reconstructing a vagina out of grafted skin or from intestinal tissue,
but the surgery is highly invasive, lengthy and painful. And it takes a
long time to grow a normal mucosal wall.



Such women, if they have healthy ovaries, have been able to achieve
pregnancy by artificial insemination but would then need a surrogate
mother to carry the fertilized eggs and give birth.



"What we do is to take a little biopsy of 0.5 cm from the place the
vagina should be, " Marchese said. They used an enzyme to break down
the tissue and then let the immature cells, called stem cells, generate
new, mucosal tissue on their own.



It took about 15 days to get a thick enough layer to transplant into the patients, Marchese said.



Marchese, a 47-year-old professor of clinical pathology and
biotechnology, studied the use of stem cells to build sheets of skin in
vitro to provide skin grafts for burn victims at Harvard Medical School
with the technique's pioneer, Howard Green.



"When I came back to Italy I modified this technique for mucosal vagina
tissue," she said, adding that its success could be good news for women
with cancer and other vaginal complaints.
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