June 11, 2001 ANAHEIM, Calif., June 5 – University of Pittsburgh researchers have successfully used stem cell tissue engineering to restore deficient urethral sphincter muscles in animal models, according to a study presented today at the 96th Annual Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA). Researchers successfully regenerated viable muscle using muscle derived stem cells (MDSC). Results are published in abstract 1033 in the AUA proceedings.
“These findings are exciting on many levels. First, this is the first time that stem cell tissue engineering has been used to regenerate and restore function in deficient sphincter muscles. Secondly, it lays the foundation for further investigation into methods of using stem cells to treat stress urinary incontinence,” said Michael Chancellor, M.D., professor of urology and gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
In the study, researchers isolated MDSC from normal rats, transduced them with a reporter gene and injected the stem cells into allogenic denervated proximal urethral sphincters. After two weeks, they compared urethral muscle strips from normal, denervated and denervated-MDSC injected rats. Fast twitch muscle contractions were recorded after electrical field stimulation. The amplitude of fast twitch muscle contractions decreased in denervated sphincter muscles and improved in denervated sphincters injected with MDSC by approximately 88 percent.
In addition, histological evaluation revealed the formation of new skeletal muscle fiber at the urethral sphincter injection sites in the MDSC rats. “These results give us hope that we can find a permanent solution to stress urinary incontinence, a problem affecting a large number of Americans, ” says Steven Chung, M.D., University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, department of urology, who will present the results today.
Given the proper stimulus, stem cells have the ability to divide for indefinite periods and differentiate into a variety of different cells, including muscle. Researchers have been using this information to investigate the theory that it is possible to regenerate injured tissue through the injection of stem cells.
Urinary incontinence affects 13 million Americans. Those with stress urinary incontinence involuntarily lose urine while doing activities that put stress on the abdomen, such as laughing, sneezing, coughing, lifting or walking. A result of damage to the urethral sphincter, stress incontinence is most often caused by childbirth, menopause or pelvic surgery.
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