Transplanting a patient's own muscle-derived stem cells into the urethra can strengthen it and correct urinary incontinence, according to a report from Austrian researchers. The procedure, successfully performed on 20 women ages 36 to 84, can be done as an outpatient procedure in about 20 minutes. Many of the patients had no leakage within 24 hours.
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Stem cells removed from a patient's arm are cultured in a lab for 6 weeks. Then they're injected into the wall of the urethra and the sphincter muscle, improving muscle mass and contractility. Clinicians use three-dimensional ultrasound to see where the cells are needed to stop leakage.
Once injected, the cells stay put and quickly form new muscle tissue. When this new tissue matures, it stops growing automatically.
Researchers reported their findings at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America last fall. More research is needed to determine how long the procedure remains effective.