Stem cell therapy for stress urinary incontinence

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Stress urinary incontinence (SUI), the most common form of incontinence in women, refers to urine leakage during activities such as coughing, sneezing and bending over. It is estimated that SUI affects 15 million women in the United States, and around 50% of men suffer from this condition during recovery from prostate surgery. Despite the prevalence, there are few treatment options for SUI, which is typically managed by surgery or pelvic floor muscle exercises. There are currently no FDA-approved medications for SUI, but there is a great need for the development of novel and minimally-invasive therapies.

In a collaborative study between Kyungpook National University and Wake Forest University School of Medicine published in BMC Medicine as part of the Focus on stem cells article collection, Bum Soo Kim and colleagues investigated the therapeutic potential of human amniotic fluid stem cells (hAFSCs) for SUI.

Stem cell therapy from various sources has been considered as a promising option for SUI treatment, but has so far been limited by low numbers of bone marrow stromal cells, and invasive procedures to introduce muscle-derived stem cells.

Soo Kim and colleagues showed that hAFSCs, which can be obtained non-invasively and divide rapidly, can differentiate into muscle cells and restore urethral sphincter function in a mouse model of SUI.

When extended into patients, these findings represent a promising new therapy for SUI; urethral sphincter weakness is a major cause of both acute and chronic SUI in men and women, and regeneration of the muscle with hAFSCs could be an effective, non-invasive treatment option.

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