Stem Cells For Incontinence

You may have spotted a brief news report in recent years about stem cell research conducted in Austria and more recently in Canada for treating urinary incontinence. Now, the first U.S. stem cell trial for stress urinary incontinence is getting underway, with FDA approval, at Beaumont Hospital in Detroit.

This novel research uses the patient’s own muscle stem cells, obtained through a small needle biopsy from the thigh muscle. No embryo or fetal tissues are involved. The extracted cells are isolated to grow stem cells. Within several weeks, the carefully cultivated cells are injected into the patient’s muscles around the urethra, the tube leading from the bladder to the body’s outlet. The goal is to build strength and urethral support to improve closure of the sphincter that functions much as a valve at the bladder neck while the bladder is relaxed and filling with urine.  Researchers are hopeful of positive results, as similar work in Toronto with stem cells found that 60% of study participants reported improvement one year after the procedure, with no side effects.

The procedure requires only a few minutes. Instead of needing several weeks for recovery from even minimally invasive surgery such as a sling, patients are released the same day and allowed to immediately resume their normal activities. Unlike injectibles of bulking agents, there are no risks associated with migration of beads used as artificial agents or absorption into body tissues in the case of natural substances such as collagen.

Urology Department Chairman Dr. Kenneth Peters is the principal investigator of the study, building on the pioneering work of Beaumont’s Director of Neurourology, Dr. Michael Chancellor. With his nurse specialist, Margie O’Leary, Dr. Chancellor served as senior author of NAFC’s first in a series of booklets on neurological diseases and conditions, Continence Care for People Living with Multiple Sclerosis.

An estimated 15- 16 million women live with symptoms of stress urinary incontinence (SUI). The condition is caused by a weak urethral sphincter muscle and poor pelvic floor musculature support of the urethra. This allows the bladder to leak urine when any physical stress in the form of pressure is exerted on the bladder, such as from coughing, sneezing, or lifting. Unlike women who face SUI largely due to pregnancy and childbirth, men who have undergone surgery to remove the prostate gland due to cancer are also subject to experiencing SUI.   There is no medication available in the U.S. for treating SUI. Results from surgical remedies and other options have proven disappointing for as many as one-third of all patients.

It is exciting to witness on U.S. soil a new generation of technology being applied to this problem that plagues millions. To learn more about how to be considered for inclusion in the research study at Beaumont or about other clinical trials to remedy bladder control problems, visit http://www.nafc.org/bladder-bowel-health/finding-help/