TUESDAY, Aug. 21, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Stem cells from amniotic fluid might one day help treat stress urinary incontinence, a condition caused by damaged pelvic floor muscles in which bladder leakage is brought on by exercise, coughing or simply laughing, a new study involving mice suggests.
Researchers in Korea found that this new technique repaired the damaged pelvic floor muscles in the mice, and kept the condition from recurring.
Results obtained in animal studies do not necessarily apply to humans, however, and much more research is needed before this might be considered a viable treatment for people.
Looking for an alternative to surgery to treat stress urinary incontinence, the scientists explored the use of stem cells to repair the weak muscles that cause bladder leakage. To do this in a noninvasive way, they used stem cells from amniotic fluid collected during routine amniocentesis (prenatal testing of amniotic fluid).
"These stem cells ... have the ability to become muscle cells when grown under the right conditions," explained the study's leaders, James Yoo and Tae Gyun Kwon, from Kyungpook National University, in a news release. "We found that the stem cells were able to survive for seven days inside the mice but by 14 days they had all disappeared. Nevertheless, they were able to induce regeneration of the mouse's own urethral sphincter muscle."
The study revealed the stem cells were able to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. This regenerated muscle also had the right nerve connections. The researchers added that amniotic stem cells do not appear to cause an immune response, such as rejection or tumor growth. Exactly how the stem cells are able to regenerate the muscles remains unclear, they noted.
Stress urinary incontinence is common among women during and after pregnancy and in women aged 40 and older. The study authors noted that men also can develop the condition, particularly those who have undergone prostate surgery.
Current treatments for stress urinary incontinence include a combination of surgery, weight loss, pelvic floor exercises and bladder training.
The study was published Aug. 20 in the journal BMC Medicine.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on stem cells.