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​Pacemaker Cells In Urinary Tract Identified By University Of Pittsburgh Researchers

DALLAS, May 2, 1999 — Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) report they have discovered cells in the urinary tract that influence the process and timing of urination. Their findings, which could lead to therapies for various urologic problems, were presented today at the American Urological Association 1999 annual meeting. These so-called pacemaker cells, which have been speculated to exist but have never before been identified, provide insight into a variety of urinary conditions, including incontinence , which might be the result of too many of these regulating cells.

Such a system of cells, known as Interstitial Cells of Cajal (ICC), have been found to control movement of solid waste through the gastrointestinal tract. The same cells were found to exist in female mice studied by the UPMC researchers. Specifically, they were found in the ureters, which carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, and in the urethra, the muscular passageway leading from the bladder to outside the body.

"Such a finding has tremendous implications for all sorts of urinary problems. We might be able to treat some conditions by encouraging production of more of these cells, and treat other conditions by curbing their over-abundance," said Michael B. Chancellor, M.D., associate professor of urologic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead investigator.

Too few of these cells could be the root of some very common problems, such as primary bladder neck obstruction whereby the opening at the bottom of the bladder doesn’t permit voiding of urine. By the same token, urinary incontinence, which affects about 17 million Americans, could be caused by too many of the pacemaker cells in certain parts of the urinary tract.

 

 
 

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