Stem Cells May Help Treat Incontinence
Study Shows Benefit From Stem Cells Derived From a Patient's Muscle Cells
Fat Cells Might Work, Too
A woman's fat cells may provide another treatment option someday, says Tom
Lue, MD, a University of California San Francisco urologist. Using fat to
strengthen sphincter muscles is not new, he says. But using stem cells from fat
"As far back as 1994, a study was published talking about using fat
[injections] for sphincter incontinence," he says. "But using the fat
cells [themselves], they die. But using stem cells, they survive much
In his study of the concept in animals, his team harvested fat tissue,
processed it to retrieve the stem cells, and then injected it back into the
animals. A comparison group only got a buffered solution; the treatment group
received both the fat stem cells and the buffered solution.
He found that the stem cells became muscle tissue as well as blood vessel
and fat tissues. And by using a person's own stem cells, Lue says,
"we bypass immunology problems and ethical concerns."
Stem Cells From Urine, Cord Blood
While tissue biopsy is the most common way to obtain adult stem cells,
another researcher reported that he isolated them from human urine. Anthony
Atala, MD, a researcher at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., took
urine samples from nine men and isolated and expanded the cells. He implanted
them in mice and found they maintained their cellular characteristics. That
suggests urine may someday be a valuable additional source for stem cells to
help urinary problems.
Yet another research team is looking at human cord blood as a source of stem
cells that might help urinary incontinence. In a study done in South
Korea, Chester Koh, MD, a researcher at the University of Southern California,
Los Angeles, and his colleagues injected human cord blood stem cells into 39
women with stress urinary incontinence.
After one month, 80% of the women reported a 50% or greater improvement in
quality of life.
Estimated Time Line
As promising as some of the research to help stress urinary incontinence
sounds, the studies are in "extremely early" stages, Roger Dmochowski,
MD, the moderator of the press briefing on tissue engineering, tells WebMD.
When might the new treatments be available? "At the earliest, three
years, more likely five to seven years," says Dmochowski, a urologist at
Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and the president of the Society for
Female Urology and Urodynamics.