NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 10, 2006

Tissue engineering might be the answer 35 million people suffering from bladder disease in the United States are looking for, says USA Today.

In their study, doctors were able to mostly replace diseased bladders in seven youngsters with tissue grown from the patients' own cells; this is the first time it has been accomplished with a complex organ, says USA Today.

According to researchers:

  • They first removed the bad tissue from the bladders, fished out muscle and bladder wall cells and let the cells reproduce in the lab for seven weeks.
  • The cell-bearing molds were then surgically sewn back to the remnants of the patients' original and partly working bladders, where the cells kept maturing.
  • In undergoing the experimental procedure, the patients skirted the typical side effects of grafts that would otherwise have been made with their own intestinal tissue.

However, other scientists are more cautious about the promise shown with the new procedure, says USA Today:

  • The patients must still cope with spina bifida -- the birth defect that caused their bladder problems -- since leaving the spine incompletely closed can turn off nerve signals that keep the bladder healthy.
  • The stiff, leathery bladder leaks frequently, forcing the recipient to wear pads or diapers, and the weakened bladders can flush urine back into the kidneys and damage them too.

But, the rebuilt bladders were up to three times more elastic and better at holding urine, and in all seven patients, kidney function was preserved, says USA Today.

These techniques require testing on more patients and for longer times, before they are repeated with other organs, says USA Today.

Source: Jeff Donn, "Organ re-engineered for the first time in bladder transplants," USA Today, April 3, 2006; based upon: Anthony Atala et al., "Tissue-engineering autologous bladders for patients needing cystoplasty," Lancet, April 4, 2006.

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