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Stem Cells Help Urinary Incontinence?

Researchers See Improvement in Some Patients Who Get Stem Cell Injections

The Austrian Study continued...

On ultrasound exams after the injections, the thickness of the sphincter had increased 59% in the women given cell injections but just 9% in the collagen-treated group. The muscle contractibility rose much more in the cell group. Increases in the sphincter thickness and muscle contractibility are thought to help improve symptoms.

Women treated with the injections of cells reported higher quality of life than the collagen-treated group.

None of the women reported any adverse side effects.

Strasser is a founder and co-owner of the biotechnology company at which the retrieved cells were prepared, but the company had no role in the research, he says.

Second Opinions

The Austrian study shows "promising results," according to Michael Chancellor, MD, a professor of urology and director of the neurourology and urinary incontinence programs at the University of Pittsburgh.

He has been conducting similar research and presented his findings in May 2007 at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Anaheim, Calif.

In that study, Chancellor and his colleagues injected adult stem cells derived from the person's own muscle into the weakened sphincter and found after a year and half that five of the eight women with urinary incontinence studied got modest improvement; one woman was completely continent. The study was a safety study, considered preliminary, and done in cooperation with the University of Toronto and Health Canada.

In his editorial, Novara calls the study results "impressive" and writes: "If the data are confirmed, this approach is likely to cause a substantial change in the treatment of female urinary incontinence."

If the research bears out, the new approach "may indeed be a true breakthrough in the management of incontinence," says Roger R. Dmochowski, MD, a spokesman for the American Urological Association and director of the Vanderbilt University Continence Center in Nashville, Tenn. "This study has surprisingly good data and actually shows not only durability of the injected tissue but also functionality of that tissue, which is impressive at this time." But he says more follow-up is needed and other researchers need to reproduce the results.

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