Functional bladder tissue regenerated using baboon bone marrow cells
Researchers have successfully regenerated functional bladder tissue in a baboon using the animal’s own bone marrow cells. With the organ working within a few months and staying healthy throughout the two-year study, the findings open the door to a novel treatment for severe bladder dysfunction for which treatment is currently limited.
Certain conditions can affect the bladder, including spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, and malignancy, resulting in urine leakage, bladder stiffness, and loss of bladder capacity. The current treatment for severe and end-stage bladder dysfunction is limited to surgery that includes augmentation cystoplasty, making the bladder larger using a section of the small or large intestine. However, complications arising from bladder/intestine incompatibilities have led to a search for alternative ways to treat bladder dysfunction.
Now, researchers from the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University have successfully regenerated functional bladder tissue in a baboon using the animal’s own bone marrow cells.
“Our innovative approach is promising to make a great difference in the lives of children with spina bifida and others with end-stage bladder dysfunction,” said Arun Sharma, corresponding author of the study. “In our study, the bladder started working within a few months and demonstrated functionality throughout the course of the study. This is a major advance that will transform clinical practice.”
The innovative approach involved using a novel biodegradable scaffold seeded with stem and progenitor cells taken from the baboon’s bone marrow. The researchers found that the cell-seeded scaffolds generated robust bladder tissue, including smooth muscle and nerve and blood vessel regeneration.
The regenerated bladder retained the shape of a healthy bladder and the researchers observed a gradual increase in bladder capacity over time. This, they say, is particularly important for pediatric patients where bladder growth needs to be in step with patient development. After two years, the regenerated bladder tissue remained healthy, serving as a pre-clinical model for humans.
Because the researchers used the baboon’s own bone marrow cells, there was no tissue rejection. Additionally, the biodegradable scaffold was found to be non-toxic.
“Our results were fantastic and point to a new direction in the field,” Sharma said. “The likelihood that our innovative platform will be feasible in humans is very high, and we anticipate launching a clinical trial soon.”
The study was published in PNAS Nexus.