Treating Overactive Bladders With LED Light2 months, 2 weeks ago
Posted on Jan 03, 2019, 10 p.m.
An implantable device has been developed that may help those with bladder problems without need of electronic stimulator or medication, as published in the journal Nature.
The device uses light from its integrated LEDs to reduce the urge to urinate when it detects overactivity within the bladder. The device has been found to work in animal studies, and the researchers are hopeful that it one day may be developed to help humans with overactive bladders experiencing distress from incontinence, pain, burning, or frequent urges to urinate.
Electronic stimulators are often used to treat bladder problems which control a nerve within the bladder to help improve overactivity. Dr. Robert Gereau explains that there is a benefit to such nerve stimulation, however there are also some off target side effects that can result from lack of specificity to the older devices such as disrupting nerve signalling in other organs that this device should bypass.
The soft, tiny, stretchy device developed by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine is fitted around the bladder, via a minor surgical procedure, where it expands and contracts as the organ fills and empties. Opsin proteins are injected into the bladder and are carried by a virus that binds to organ neurons making those cells sensitive to light which can then be activated using optogenetics. To track whether the bladder is full, empty, or when it is emptying too frequently bluetooth communication enables real time read information using a simple algorithm.
Larger similar devices may be used one day to treat humans which could be implanted using catheters rather than surgery; such an approach could possibly even be used to treat other conditions such as chronic pain, or to stimulate pancreatic cells to secrete insulin according to the researchers.
Using viruses to bind light sensitive proteins to cells in organs could be a potential hurdle as it is not yet know if stable expression of opsins can be achieved using a viral approach, or whether it will be safe over the long term. Further studies are required to address issues in preclinical models and early clinical trials to ensure the strategy is completely notes Gereau.
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