New understanding of bladder fullness could see new incontinence treatments

11 February 2013

Researchers in the US say they could develop new treatments for urology incontinence after developing their understanding of how the body knows when the bladder is full.

Urinary incontinence – the unintentional passing of urine – is caused when there is a problem passing urine from the kidneys to the bladder, where it is stored.

It is thought as many as six million people in the UK have some degree of urinary incontinence, with women likely to be twice as affected as men.

After testing two groups of mice, a team at the Department of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School found that a thin layer of cells which line the bladder is able to sense how full the bladder is.

The layer, called the epithelium, is able to sense bladder fullness through the activity of integrins, which send information to nerves and other cells in the bladder.

Armed with this new understanding, researchers believe they may be able to design bladder treatments to treat conditions like incontinence and overactive bladder.

Dr Warren Hill, part of the research team, said he was "very hopeful" that greater understanding over how the bladder senses fullness will lead to new treaments.

"It is extremely important that we do this as quickly as possible, since there are millions of people who suffer enormously from the anguish of bladder pain, incontinence and constant feelings of needing to go," he said.

The research was published in the FASEB journal.

Posted by Philip Briggs

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