From the WashU Newsroom…
A team of neuroscientists and engineers has developed a tiny, implantable device that has potential to help people with bladder problems bypass the need for medication or electronic stimulators.
The team — from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago — created a soft, implantable device that can detect overactivity in the bladder and then use light from tiny, biointegrated LEDs to tamp down the urge to urinate.
The device works in laboratory rats and one day may help people who suffer incontinence or frequently feel the need to urinate.
The new strategy is outlined in an article published Jan. 2 in the journal Nature.
Overactive bladder, pain, burning and a frequent need to urinate are common and distressing problems. For about 30 years, many with severe bladder problems have been treated with stimulators that send an electric current to the nerve that controls the bladder. Such implants improve incontinence and overactive bladder, but they also can disrupt normal nerve signaling to other organs.
“There definitely is benefit to that sort of nerve stimulation,” said Robert W. Gereau IV, the Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professor of Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine, and one of the study’s senior investigators. “But there also are some off-target side effects that result from a lack of specificity with those older devices.”
Gereau and his colleagues developed the new device in hopes of preventing such side effects.