Lab grown muscle cells raise hope for gastric reflux and fecal incontinence

A new study shows that muscle cells grown in the lab can restore an intestine's ability to squeeze shut properly. The work, performed in dogs and rats, might ultimately help treat patients with conditions such as gastric reflux and fecal incontinence.

This technique may be used to strengthen sphincters, which are the bands of muscle that separate the major sections of your intestinal tract. Weakness in these areas can cause gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which affects 25 million adults in the United States. It is also a cause of fecal incontinence, or loss of control of the bowels, which afflicts more than 5 percent of adults under 40, especially women after childbirth; its prevalence increases with age.

"This represents a very logical and new direction for treatment of such conditions," said Stanford professor of medicine Pankaj Pasricha, MD, lead author of the study in the December 2009 issue of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. "After injecting muscle cells in that area of weakness, those muscle cells thrive and get integrated into the existing tissues, and then add to the strength of the sphincter," added Pasricha, chief of gastroenterology and hepatology at Stanford.

Source: Stanford University Medical Center

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