Scientists have been successful in growing urethra using bladder cells. This study has been published in 'The Lancet'. Urethral replacements are required for reconstructive procedures in conditions where severe damage to the urethra leads to inability of urination. Currently urethral replacements are grown from the patient's skin. However sometimes improper tissue development occurs due to which a repeat surgery may be needed. However this new method involves elimination of improper tissue development.
The study involved 5-boys with urethral defects with an average age of 11-years. For grafting purpose scientists swabbed the urethral area for cells instead of skin cells. They grew these cells into tubular urethras which were further used to replace the damaged urethra. 3-months post the implant urethras developed a normal appearance and had no defects. After the procedure, the children had a normal urine flow up to 6-years.
Urethral reconstructive surgery with the help of current methods has 50% success rate or patients can face life long incontinence and repeated urinary tract infections (UTI). This new procedure could become an alternative leading to fewer complications and reduce the chances of subsequent surgeries. The failure rates are also greatly reduced.
Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and a co-author of the study, Dr. Anthony Atala, "The study shows that 'tissues can be engineered using the patients' own cells, and they last long term. Clinical trials are underway for the same procedure in adult patients."