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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Got to Go? Harvard Scientists Find New Relief for Urinary Incontinence, Overactive Bladder

New focus on proteins in cells lining the surface of the bladder may lead to new drug relief for incontinence that affects millions of senior citizens

Urinary Track - More at Medline Plus - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/urinaryincontinence.html#cat23Feb. 11, 2013 - If you have an overactive bladder or urinary incontinence, help could be on the way. Most drug treatments today target proteins in the muscle surrounding the bladder, but new research shows that it may be possible to design drugs that target sensory proteins in the epithelium, a thin layer of cells which line the surface of the bladder.

The new research report published online in the FASEB Journal, shows that the this lining, the epithelium, is able to sense how full the bladder is through the action of a family of proteins called integrins. As the bladder becomes full, the cells in the epithelium stretch and become thinner, which activates the integrins to send that information to nerves and other cells in the bladder.

 

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As a result of this new knowledge, researchers may one day be able to design drugs that target this mechanism to treat conditions like incontinence and overactive bladder, both of which are common, serious, problems affecting millions of people.

"I am very hopeful that as we learn more about how the bladder senses fullness and conveys that information to the nerves and the muscles which control our ability to urinate, that this greater understanding and knowledge will lead to new treatments," said Warren G. Hill, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA.

"It is extremely important that we do this as quickly as possible, since there are millions of people who suffer enormously from the anguish of bladder pain, incontinence and constant feelings of needing to go."

Dr. Hill added, "I am optimistic these new insights into the role of integrins will begin the process of discovering important new drug targets which will dramatically improve the quality of life for many of these people."

To make this discovery, Hill and colleagues tested two groups of mice.

The first group were genetically modified to not have an important member of the integrin family present in the epithelium. These mice lacking the integrin protein had normal looking bladders but very little urinary control.

The second group of mice was normal. These normal mice also had normal looking bladders, but as expected, had bladder control.

Researchers then tested the bladders from the integrin knockout mice and found that their bladders were constantly squeezing and very overactive. In addition, they overfilled their bladders and took much longer to urinate than the normal mice.

"No one wants to pee in his or her pants," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal, "but the reality is that bladder problems incontinence, frequency and pain - affect more people than we realize. This report offers hope that new drugs targeting the bladder's epithelium will succeed when current drugs fail."

The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). It is among the most cited biology journals worldwide according to the Institute for Scientific Information and has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century. http://www.faseb.org

About Urinary Incontinence, Bladder Control

Urinary incontinence is loss of bladder control. Symptoms can range from mild leaking to uncontrollable wetting. It can happen to anyone, but it becomes more common with age.

Most bladder control problems happen when muscles are too weak or too active. If the muscles that keep your bladder closed are weak, you may have accidents when you sneeze, laugh or lift a heavy object. This is stress incontinence. If bladder muscles become too active, you may feel a strong urge to go to the bathroom when you have little urine in your bladder. This is urge incontinence or overactive bladder. There are other causes of incontinence, such as prostate problems and nerve damage.

Treatment depends on the type of problem you have and what best fits your lifestyle. It may include simple exercises, medicines, special devices or procedures prescribed by your doctor, or surgery.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

For Seniors

  Eldercare at Home: Incontinence(AGS Foundation for Health in Aging)

  Urinary Incontinence(AGS Foundation for Health in Aging)

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