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Stem Cells Show Promise As Urinary Incontinence Fix

In stress urinary incontinence (SUI), the sphincter pelvic muscles supporting the bladder and urethra have become weakened — often by pregnancy or prostate surgery — and unable to hold back urine when pressure is placed on the bladder. Something as simple as sneezing or laughing can trigger it.

SUI is treatable, often by losing weight or reducing caffeine intake. Exercise or bladder training can help, too. But some extreme cases require surgery and have the subsequent risks associated with an operation.

Recently a team of researchers working at Kyungpook National University, Daegu, South Korea, has shown how stem cells isolated from human amniotic fluid obtained during routine amniocentesis can regenerate damaged urethral sphincter muscles in mice. Their work is published in the current issue of BMC Medicine.

James Yoo and Tae Gyun Kwon, both in the Department of Urology, led the team. "These stem cells are mesenchymal and consequently have the ability to become muscle cells when grown under the right conditions," they explained. After injecting the mice with the cells, which had been treated with silica-coated magnetic nanoparticles for tracking purposes, they compared the results to the control groups.

"We found that the stem cells were able to survive for seven days inside the mice, but by 14 days they had all disappeared. Nevertheless they were able to induce regeneration of the mouse's own urethral sphincter muscle without any tumor formation."

While the idea of using stem cells to regenerate the damaged or weak muscles in SUI isn't new, most protocols for harvesting stem cells also require invasive procedures and often produce low numbers of viable cells. In contrast amniotic stem cells can be collected easily and have very low immunogenicity, reducing chances of rejection.

Learn more:
Medical News Today
BMC Medicine