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Woman born without vagina has one made out of FISH SKIN

A woman born without a vagina has become the first in the world to have pioneering reconstructive surgery to build one out of fish skin.

Jucilene Marinho, 23, from Brazil, underwent a neovaginoplasty in April last year after being born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hause (MRKH).

The condition, which roughly strikes one in 5,000 women, left her with no cervix, uterus or ovaries. She was told she would never have children.

But scientists at the Federal University of Ceara in north east Brazil have crafted her a new vaginal canal using the skin of tilapia fish.

Jucilene Marinho, 23, from Brazil, underwent a neovaginoplasty in April last year after being born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hause (MRKH)

After spending three weeks recovering in hospital, Ms Marinho was discharged and is thrilled with the results. She said: ‘My family and friends took me out to “toast” my new vagina!’

Ms Marinho, who spiraled into a deep depression when she thought she would never have an intimate relationship, has even been able to have sex for the first time with her boyfriend of over a year Marcus Santos, 24.

She added: ‘It was a wonderful moment because everything worked perfectly. There was no pain just a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction.’

The revolutionary treatment involves opening a space between the vagina and anus and inserting a tubular mould lined with the skin of the freshwater fish.

Once in contact with the patient’s body, tilapia skin acts like stem cells and is absorbed and transformed into cellular tissue forming the walls of the canal, similar to that of an actual vagina.

Before being used, the fish skin undergoes a special cleaning and sterilisation process in the lab followed by irradiation to kill viruses.

The process removes all the scales and fish smell and results in a light-coloured gel dressing that can be stored for up to two years in refrigerated sterile packaging.

HOW IS THE PROCEDURE CARRIED OUT?

The revolutionary treatment, called a neovaginoplasty, involves opening a space between the vagina and anus and inserting a tubular mould lined with the skin of the freshwater fish.

Once in contact with the patient’s body, tilapia skin acts like stem cells and is absorbed and transformed into cellular tissue forming the walls of the canal, similar to that of an actual vagina.

Before being used, the fish skin undergoes a special cleaning and sterilisation process in the lab followed by irradiation to kill viruses.

The process removes all the scales and fish smell and results in a light-coloured gel dressing that can be stored for up to two years in refrigerated sterile packaging.

Dr Leonardo Bezerra, who led the procedure with a team of surgeons at the Assis Chateaubriand Maternity School (MEAC), has treated four sufferers with MRKH, also known as vaginal agenesis, with the break-through treatment. 

Ms Marinho spoke for the first time to FocusOn News about how the ground-breaking surgery has changed her life and made her feel like ‘a proper woman’ who now enjoys a healthy sex life.

The young university student, from Lavras da Mangabeira, was diagnosed in her teens with having no cervix, uterus, ovaries or womb.

However, to doctors’ surprise she developed normally throughout puberty and even experienced menstrual cramping pains in her stomach but never had a period.

At the age of 15 she was given the crushing news there was nothing but connective tissue behind the skin blocking the opening of her vagina.

‘I cried a lot when I found out,’ she recalled. ‘I thought my world had ended. I’d always dreamed of having a baby of my own now I had to accept that wouldn’t be possible.’

She spiralled into a deep depression fearing she would never experience an intimate and loving relationship.

This worsened when a teenage boyfriend mocked and broke up with her after discovering the disorder.

But last year, six months after agreeing to become the first of four women to have the experimental procedure, Ms Marinho had sex for the first time in her life.

‘I spent three months recuperating from the operation and then doctors gave me the all clear to have sex in October last year,’ Ms Marinho said.

‘At first I was very scared to do it because I thought it would hurt and I was worried it might damage the opening.

Ms Marinho, who spiraled into a deep depression when she thought she would never have an intimate relationship, has even been able to have sex for the first time with her boyfriend of over a year Marcus Santos, 24 (pictured)

Ms Marinho, who spiraled into a deep depression when she thought she would never have an intimate relationship, has even been able to have sex for the first time with her boyfriend of over a year Marcus Santos, 24 (pictured)

Scientists at the Federal University of Ceara in north east Brazil have crafted her a new vaginal canal using the skin of tilapia fish

Scientists at the Federal University of Ceara in north east Brazil have crafted her a new vaginal canal using the skin of tilapia fish

The revolutionary treatment involves opening a space between the vagina and anus and inserting a tubular mould lined with the skin of the freshwater fish (pictured, the skin next to the mould)

The revolutionary treatment involves opening a space between the vagina and anus and inserting a tubular mould lined with the skin of the freshwater fish (pictured, the skin next to the mould)

‘But it was a wonderful moment because everything worked perfectly. There was no pain just a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction.

‘I didn’t feel any discomfort and there was no bleeding. Everything felt sensitive in what I’m told is the right and normal way. It was perfectly natural like the opening had always been there.’

Dr Leonardo Bezerra, who led the procedure with a team of surgeons at the Assis Chateaubriand Maternity School (MEAC), has treated four sufferers with MRKH, also known as vaginal agenesis, with the break-through treatment.

It is less invasive surgically than the traditional method which involves creating a vaginal canal using extensive grafts from the patient’s groin.

Some 23 patients have undergone the conventional treatment at MEAC over the past ten years.

He said: ‘This procedure can be time consuming and painful as the patient needs to recover from a large incision which leaves a scar that can be unsightly and stigmatising.

‘There is also the possibility of discomfort with the reconstructed tissue.’

By comparison, neovaginaplasty has a faster recovery rate with no visible scars. There are minimal complications with no risk of rejection or infections.

In addition, medical costs and materials are low – a significant benefit in a public health system strapped for cash – with operating times quicker and an abundance of the inexpensive, mild-tasting Tilapia fish readily available from Brazil’s rivers and fish farms.

Research shows that tilapia skin, normally thrown away as a waste product, contains large amounts of moisture and is rich in collagen type 1, a protein that promotes healing. It is disease resistant and as strong and resilient as human skin.

Since 2015, scientists at the UFC Research and Development of Medicines Nucleus, coordinated by Professor Odorico Moraes, have been trialling a radical procedure that uses the moisture-filled skin of the freshwater fish to heal more than 200 victims with severe burns – with notable success.

The normal regime is painful and involves regular changes of gauze bandages along with painkillers and ointments.

Dr Bezerra, who began investigating the procedure in January 2016, said: ‘There was a eureka moment when we thought, if this membrane can be used for burns, why can’t it be used for the vagina.

‘To make the “new vagina” we insert a vagina shaped acrylic mould, lined with the skin of tilapia, into the space created between the bladder and the rectum.

‘The device remains there for 10 days to prevent the walls from closing.

‘During this period the skin of the tilapia is absorbed, and the cells and growth factors released by the membrane transforms, like stem cells, into the patient’s tissue cells.

‘Finally, the patient’s body completely incorporates the tilapia skin becoming biocompatible with it.

‘The fish skin stimulates cellular growth and the formation of blood vessels and creates a new canal equal to that of an actual vagina.’

After the operation, patients have been able to get up and walk after an average of 12 days recovery with the mould being replaced with silicone or a sponge for comfort.

Under the established procedure, convalescents spend weeks in bed without moving and have to learn to walk again.

Ms Marinho suffered minor internal bleeding and was discharged after three weeks in hospital and admits the moment she left she went out to celebrate.

‘My family and friends, who have always been there for me, took me out to ‘toast’ my new vagina,’ she said.

‘And it felt so good to have something the majority of women take for granted,” she added with a deep sigh of relief.’

Doctors are now working towards offering the new treatment in multiple medical centres throughout Brazil and in different locations across the world once clinical studies have been completed and strict protocols established.

Despite being born with MRKH, Ms Marinho was not diagnosed until she was 15.

She had a normal puberty and experienced menstrual cramps without ever having a period.

Speaking of her diagnosis, Ms Marinho said: ‘I cried a lot when I found out. I thought my world had ended.

‘I’d always dreamed of having a baby of my own now I had to accept that wouldn’t be possible.’

After having the operation, Ms Marinho experienced minor internal bleeding but was told she could have sex at the end of last year.

She said: ‘At first I was very scared to do it because I thought it would hurt and I was worried it might damage the opening.

‘I didn’t feel any discomfort and there was no bleeding.

‘Everything felt sensitive in what I’m told is the right and normal way. It was perfectly natural like the opening had always been there.

‘It felt so good to have something the majority of women take for granted.’ 

WHAT IS MAYER ROKITANSKY KUSTER HAUSER?

Rokitansky Syndrome, or MRKH (Mayer Rokitansky Küster Hauser), is a congenital abnormality characterised by the absence of the vagina, womb and cervix.

Women suffering from the condition will have normally functioning ovaries, so will experience the normal signs of puberty – but will not have periods or be able to conceive.

The external genatalia are completely normal which is why MRKH isn’t usually discovered until women are in their teenage years.

Rokitansky Syndrome, or MRKH (Mayer Rokitansky Küster Hauser), is a congenital abnormality characterised by the absence of the vagina, womb and cervix

Rokitansky Syndrome, or MRKH (Mayer Rokitansky Küster Hauser), is a congenital abnormality characterised by the absence of the vagina, womb and cervix

Many women are able to create a vaginal canal using dilation treatment, which uses cylinder shaped dilators of different sizes to stretch the muscles.

However, if this is unsuccessful then surgery will be used to stretch the vaginal canal.

Following treatment women are able to have intercourse and can have their eggs removed and fertilised to be used in surrogacy. 

It affects one in 5,000 live female births, according to an 1985 article in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine. 

Source: Centre for Disorders of Reproductive Development & Adolescent  



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