Exclusive: My lab-grown vagina and hopes for a family
New Scientist, 11 April 2014
A woman from Mexico who was born without a vaginal canal talks to New Scientist about her pioneering vagina operation.
She was 18 when she was diagnosed with the rare disorder Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser Syndrome (MRKHS). The same year, she was one of the first women to receive a bio-engineered vagina grown from her own cells.
How has your life changed since the operation?
It is difficult to answer briefly. Thanks to the tissue engineering I have a normal life. I am enjoying this opportunity the doctors have given me.
At the beginning it wasn't easy, thinking that a part of your body was going to be made in a laboratory. It was difficult to understand. But as the years pass and with the good results, you find a way of life which is different but not too far from normality.
You start from a point where you are scared of everything, of trying anything – you feel you aren't normal =). But with time, the support of friends and my partner, and the unconditional support of my mother who gave her all to understand me, I feel I am a very lucky person, fully satisfied.
What was it like being diagnosed with MRKHS and having the transplant?
The whole process was difficult and a bit painful. I am not sure if it was more physically or emotionally painful, because of the moment you are told that you won't be able to have children. I had moments of desperation when I wanted everything to be finished quickly, but I always had people by my side to help me to be patient.
After the surgery, the way my body received the new organ was extraordinary. The doctor mentioned that we would have to wait and see how my body would react, but it was incredible how my body accepted it. Now it works as if it were not made in a lab =).
What would you say to other women with the condition?
It is very important that girls like me don't feel they are the only ones who have something like this, and they mustn't believe that the procedure is difficult or impossible.
What are your prospects for starting a family?
I really want to go ahead and have a family. I know the options are limited, but the procedure and everything I have seen related to tissue engineering technology gives me hope that in the future I will be giving you another interview with a big family.
This is a translation of an email interview conducted in Spanish. The interviewee wished to remain unnamed