Mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow help regenerate damaged bladder smooth muscle cells

Northwestern University researchers have created a model that is capable of using stem cells from a patient's bone marrow to regenerate their bladder. 

Dr. Arun Sharma and Dr. Earl Cheng, both from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, have developed a medical model for regenerating the human bladder using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from the patient's own bone marrow

Previous research on stem-cell related bladder regeneration used animal models without human bone marrow MSCs, which had negative results when performed in clinical trials. But now, Sharma and Cheng have found that mesenchymal stem cells found in human bone marrow have similar physiological and phenotypic characteristics as bladder smooth muscle cells (bSMCs), which means that the MSCs can act as a replacement for bSMCs. 

"For our research, we used a primate-based model, using the baboon bladder in conjunction with bone marrow MSCs to attempt partial bladder regeneration," said Sharma. "We found that the mesenchymal stem cells utilized throughout the study retained the ability to populate a surgically grafted area while remaining active 10 weeks after surgery."

In addition, the bone marrow cells were able to express important smooth muscle cell markers, which is required for the functional bladder's contractile cycles and continuous expansion. The primate-based model offered extended insight into the overall possibility of using human MSCs in partial bladder regeneration. 

"This newly described bladder augmentation model represents a unique insight into the bladder regeneration process and provides strong evidence that MSCs can be exploited for tissue engineering purposes," said Sharma. "The non-human primate bladder augmentation model established in this study will also further provide key pre-clinical data that may eventually be translated in a clinical setting."

With current information on bladder regeneration being extremely limited, Sharma and Cheng's research provides additional knowledge on the subject in hopes of eventually using MSCs in a hospital setting to regenerate damaged bSMCs. 

"Advances in the use of bone marrow stem cells taken from the patient opens up new opportunities for exploring organ replacement therapies, especially for bladder regeneration," said Sharma. "Several findings from our study have demonstrated the plasticity of stem cells derived from bone marrow which make them ideal for this type of work."

This study was published in Stem Cells on November 23. 

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