Stem cell findings may offer answers for some bladder defects and disease

March 21, 2014

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in coaxing laboratory cultures of human stem cells to develop into the specialized, unique cells needed to repair a patient's defective or diseased bladder.

The breakthrough, developed at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures and published today in the scientific journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, is significant because it provides a pathway to regenerate replacement bladder tissue for patients whose bladders are too small or do not function properly, such as children with spina bifida and adults with spinal cord injuries or .

"Our goal is to use human stem cells to regenerate tissue in the lab that can be transplanted into patients to augment or replace their malfunctioning bladders," said Eric Kurzrock, professor and chief of the division of pediatric urologic surgery at UC Davis Children's Hospital and lead scientist of the study, which is titled "Induction of Human Embryonic and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells into Urothelium."

To develop the bladder cells, Kurzrock and his UC Davis colleagues investigated two categories of human stem cells. In their key experiments, they used induced (iPS cells), which were derived from lab cultures of and umbilical blood cells that had been genetically reprogrammed to convert to an embryonic stem cell-like state.

If additional research demonstrates that grafts of bladder tissue grown from human stem cells will be safe and effective for patient care, Kurzrock said that the source of the grafts would be iPS cells derived from a patient's own skin or umbilical cord blood cells. This type of tissue would be optimal, he said, because it lowers the risk of immunological rejection that typifies most transplants.

In their investigation, Kurzrock and his colleagues developed a protocol to prod the into becoming bladder cells. Their procedure was efficient and, most importantly, the cells proliferated over a long period of time—a critical element in any tissue engineering application.

"What's exciting about this discovery is that it also opens up an array of opportunities using pluripotent cells," said Jan Nolta, professor and director of the UC Davis Stem Cell program and a co-author on the new study. "When we can reliably direct and differentiate pluripotent stem cells, we have more options to develop new and effective regenerative medicine therapies. The protocols we used to create bladder tissue also provide insight into other types of tissue regeneration."

UC Davis researchers first used human embryonic stem cells obtained from the National Institutes of Health's repository of human stem cells. Embryonic stem cells can become any cell type in the body (i.e., they are pluripotent), and the team successfully coaxed these into bladder cells. They then used the same protocol to coax iPS cells made from skin and umbilical cord blood into bladder cells, called urothelium, that line the inside of the bladder. The cells expressed a very unique protein and marker of bladder cells called uroplakin, which makes the bladder impermeable to toxins in the urine.

The UC Davis researchers adjusted the culture system in which the were developing to encourage the cells to proliferate, differentiate and express the bladder protein without depending upon signals from other human cells, said Kurzrock. In future research, Kurzrock and his colleagues plan to modify the laboratory cultures so that they will not need animal and human products, which will allow use of the cells in patients.

Kurzrock's primary focus as a physician is with children suffering from spina bifida and other pediatric congenital disorders. Currently, when he surgically reconstructs a child's defective bladder, he must use a segment of their own intestine. Because the function of intestine, which absorbs food, is almost the opposite of bladder, bladder reconstruction with intestinal tissue may lead to serious complications, including urinary stone formation, electrolyte abnormalities and cancer. Developing a stem cell alternative not only will be less invasive, but should prove to be more effective, too, he said.

Another benefit of the UC Davis study is the insight it may provide about the pathways of bladder cancer, which is diagnosed in more than 70,000 Americans each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. "Our study may provide important data for basic research in determining the deviations from normal biological processes that trigger malignancies in developing bladder cells," said Nolta. More than 90 percent of patients who need replacement bladder tissue are adults with bladder cancer. Kurzrock said "cells from these patients' bladders cannot be used to generate tissue grafts because the implanted could carry a high risk of becoming cancerous. On the other hand, using cells derived from patients' skin may alleviate that risk. Our next experiments will seek to prove that these are safer."

Explore further: Muscle-invasive and non-muscle invasive bladder cancers arise from different stem cells

More information: stemcellstm.alphamedpress.org/ … m.2013-0131.abstract

Related Stories

Muscle-invasive and non-muscle invasive bladder cancers arise from different stem cells

December 17, 2013
Bladder cancer will kill upward of 170,000 people worldwide this year, but bladder cancer isn't fatal in the bladder. Instead, in order to be fatal the disease must metastasize to faraway sites. The question has been this: ...

Stem cell study finds source of earliest blood cells during development

March 21, 2014
Hematopoietic stem cells are now routinely used to treat patients with cancers and other disorders of the blood and immune systems, but researchers knew little about the progenitor cells that give rise to them during embryonic ...

A new way to make muscle cells from human stem cells

March 21, 2014
As stem cells continue their gradual transition from the lab to the clinic, a research group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has discovered a new way to make large concentrations of skeletal muscle cells and muscle ...

Study could lead to 'liquid biopsy' tests for bladder cancer

January 22, 2014
Findings from a Loyola University Medical Center study ultimately could lead to tests to screen for and diagnose bladder cancer.

A step closer to muscle regeneration

December 10, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Muscle cell therapy to treat some degenerative diseases, including Muscular Dystrophy, could be a more realistic clinical possibility, now that scientists have found a way to isolate muscle cells from embryonic ...

Recommended for you

Brain cells found to control aging

July 26, 2017
Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have found that stem cells in the brain's hypothalamus govern how fast aging occurs in the body. The finding, made in mice, could lead to new strategies for warding off age-related ...

Post-stroke patients reach terra firma with new exosuit technology

July 26, 2017
Upright walking on two legs is a defining trait in humans, enabling them to move very efficiently throughout their environment. This can all change in the blink of an eye when a stroke occurs. In about 80% of patients post-stroke, ...

Molecular hitchhiker on human protein signals tumors to self-destruct

July 24, 2017
Powerful molecules can hitch rides on a plentiful human protein and signal tumors to self-destruct, a team of Vanderbilt University engineers found.

Researchers develop new method to generate human antibodies

July 24, 2017
An international team of scientists has developed a method to rapidly produce specific human antibodies in the laboratory. The technique, which will be described in a paper to be published July 24 in The Journal of Experimental ...

New vaccine production could improve flu shot accuracy

July 24, 2017
A new way of producing the seasonal flu vaccine could speed up the process and provide better protection against infection.

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.