A transgender woman in Brazil is the first in the world to undergo successful vaginal constructive surgery using fish skin.
The woman, known only as Maju, underwent sex-reassignment surgery in 1999, however, the botched operation caused her genitals to narrow and ‘collapse’.
However, Maju then heard about a surgeon in Fortaleza, north-east Brazil, who was creating vaginas for women born without genitals using the freshwater fish’s membrane. The surgery was performed by gynaecologist Professor Leonardo Bezerra, from the Federal University of Ceara (UFC).
The 35-year-old had a neovaginoplasty on April 23. This involves creating an incision where the vagina should be before inserting a genital-shaped mould lined with tilapia skin.
The sterilised, odour-free skin was left inside Maju for six days, where it got absorbed into her body speeds up healing and is transformed into tissue similar to which lines the vaginal tract.
Surgeons then inserted a ‘big tampon’ made from silicone. This will be left inside Maju for six months to prevent her vaginal wall closing.
The woman had resigned to a life of celibacy post her first surgery but now the procedure has restored her self-esteem, and allowed her the opportunity to have sex again.
‘We were able create a vagina of physiological length, both in thickness and by enlarging it, and the patient has recovered extremely well,’ Professor Bezerra said.
Maju said,” I’m absolutely thrilled with the result. For the first time in my life I feel complete and like a real woman.”
Before tilapia skin is used medically, it is subjected to a rigorous process of sterilisation at the Nucleus of Research and Development of Medicines (NPDM), part of the UFC.
Once sterilised, it undergoes radiation therapy to kill any lingering viruses. It can then be stored for up to two years if refrigerated.