Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Mexico ‘Federico Gómez’ (HIMFG) developed a culture technique that allows the isolation and reproduction of cells, which in combination with some biomaterials are used to conform a vagina in patients. This scientific advance will be used to treat women who born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH) —characterized by the absence or underdevelopment of a vagina and, in some cases, also of a uterus.
The head of the HIMFG Tissue Engineering Laboratory, Atlántida Raya Rivera, carried out this as a pilot cohort study to achieve autologous vaginal organs through tissue engineering in patients. Regenerative medicine is derived from tissue engineering, which involves inducing the formation of cells from the same patient to create a new tissue, she explained.
Dr. Raya Rivera explained that this protocol was done jointly with scientists from the Institute of Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, United States, led by Dr. Anthony Atala.
She mentioned that the common practice for these patients is forming the vagina with a segment of the intestine. However, this poses risks such as cancer.
The researcher noted that despite the fact that MRKH is not a common disease (one case for every 5,000 female births) the HIMFG concentrates all the cases registered in the country.
She indicated that patients are treated during adolescence or during adulthood, because at birth their genitals have a normal appearance. The problems begin when they grow up, during physical development; when presenting absence of menstruation or when they try to initiate their sexual life.
Once the condition is detected, cell reproduction can start from a biopsy of the patient’s vulva. These are combined with biomaterials and are kept in culture for four to six weeks in the laboratory to be able to perform the implant. This is achieved through a surgical intervention. The first five days are crucial to know if any problems occur. Then the patient is followed up for the next six months, when the organ will function properly.
She noted that there are other conditions that cause the vagina and uterus to be underdeveloped or absent, such as anorectal malformation, congenital adrenal hyperplasia and gonadal dysgenesis.
Dr. Atlántida Raya said the investigation is concluded, and they are only waiting to receive the approval of the regulatory systems —in the case of Mexico of the Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) and in the case of the Unites States the Food and Drug Adimistration (FDA)— to put this new treatment into practice.
Source: Secretaría de Salud