Smart wrap puts the squeeze on underactive bladders
Underactive bladder syndrome is a condition that leaves sufferers with an inability to properly empty the organ due to weakened muscles, but an international team of researchers has been working on an advanced medical implant that could make it far easier to manage, by wrapping around the bladder to help it expand and contract.
“Researchers have been interested in studying urinary control for a while because a lot of diseases and conditions are related to this,” says study author Larry Cheng, of Penn State University. “There are two conditions in particular that researchers have been studying. The first condition is to force the urine out of the bladder when the muscle might be in a diseased state so that it really can’t provide enough force to get the urine out. The second is an overactive bladder, in which an individual experiences the sudden or frequent tendency to urinate, which is related to urinary incontinence.”
Cheng and his team have made underactive bladders the focus of their research, at least to start with. The engineers developed a serpentine-shaped polymer wrap that is embedded with sensors and designed to fit snugly around the bladder. The sensors are able to detect when the bladder needs emptying, and then relay a signal to an electronic thread woven through the polymer wrap that causes it to expand or contract.
In this way, the wrap can be implanted around the bladder without the need for glue or sutures, and is made from entirely biocompatible materials that enable it to work safely in the body for long periods of time. It also features LED lights that are designed to help modulate function of the bladder through what’s known as optogenetics, where pulses of light are used to control the behavior of certain cells. The team writes that this can be used for “manipulation for urination at the desired time.”
The team was able to successfully demonstrate different configurations of its implant in mouse models of underactive bladder syndrome. But the hope is that the technology could be developed further so that it can also be used to treat unconscious urination brought on by overactive bladders.
The research was published in the journal Science Advances.
Source: Penn State