Vaginas have been grown in laboratories and implanted in human patients for the first time.

Four teenage girls received vaginal organs that had been grown with their own cells in a laboratory at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre's Institute for Regenerative Medicine, North Carolina.

Published in the Lancet, all four women were born with a rare genetic condition where the vagina and uterus are underdeveloped or missing. The condition, Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, affects around one in 5,000 girls.

Research leader Anthony Atala said: "This pilot study is the first to demonstrate that vaginal organs can be constructed in the lab and used successfully in humans.

"This may represent a new option for patients who require vaginal reconstructive surgeries. In addition, this study is one more example of how regenerative medicine strategies can be applied to a variety of tissues and organs."

The women were between 13 and 18 years old at the time of their surgeries, which were performed between 2005 and 2008. Eight years on, the findings show the organs had retained normal function.

The women also filled out a Female Sexual Function Index questionnaire showing they had normal sexual function, including pain-free intercourse and desire.

Atlantida-Raya Rivera, lead author of the paper, said: "Tissue biopsies, MRI scans and internal exams using magnification all showed that the engineered vaginas were similar in makeup and function to native tissue."