Adipose-derived stem cells build new bladders in animal model

August 31, 2005

Montreal – UCLA researchers have discovered that adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) can be coaxed into building new bladders in rats, providing hope that one day a similar approach can be used for bladder reconstruction in humans. Human trials, however, are still a long way off.

Montreal – UCLA researchers have discovered that adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) can be coaxed into building new bladders in rats, providing hope that one day a similar approach can be used for bladder reconstruction in humans. Human trials, however, are still a long way off.

“We’ve demonstrated for the first time that you can grow new bladders in a rat model by injecting adipose-derived stem cells, which were collected from human female patients,” lead author Larissa V. Rodriguez, MD, (pictured left) told Urology Times. “These tissue-engineered bladders are similar to normal bladders in terms of compliance and capacity.”

Dr. Rodriguez is an assistant professor of urology at UCLA School of Medicine. She presented results of her data here yesterday at the International Continence Society’s 35th annual meeting.

Dr. Rodriguez and colleagues have processed lipoaspirate, acquired from female patients undergoing liposuction, to yield pluripotent ADSCs. When they injected these cells into the urethras and bladders of rats, the cells remained viable and produced smooth muscle cells, exactly the type of cells needed to reconstruct a damaged bladder.

The researchers next conducted a partial cystectomy in 30 rats. These rats then underwent bladder augmentation with a polylactide-co-glycolide (PLGA) graft or with a 1 cm2 patch of bladder engineered by smooth muscle cells that were differentiated by ADSCs. An additional control group of partially cystectomized rats underwent no additional treatment.

Urodynamic studies revealed that the bladders rebuilt with the ADSCs had superior capacity and compliance than the partial cystectomy bladders. The bladders formed with stem cells, unlike the PLGA bladders, also showed development of smooth muscle layers similar to those seen in a normal, healthy bladder.

While these findings demonstrate an exciting proof of principle, Dr. Rodriguez said that it is still a long jump to human trials. Some of the hurdles yet to be crossed include improving the reliability of the procedure, determining whether the results can be maintained long-term, and ensuring that bladder stones do not develop in engineered bladders.

“I don’t think the procedure would do humans any harm, but we have yet to determine if it will do them any good,” she said.