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Spinal injury patients could have bladder function restored

15th November 2013

A device, which has been successfully tested in rats, has proven to be able to read remaining nerve signals in the bladder via electrodes and aid in controlling when its contents are released.

Patients who have suffered serious back injuries often complain that loss of bladder, bowel, and sexual function are the symptoms most responsible for them feeling their quality of life has been reduced.

Being able to address one of these issues could be life-changing for people who have had to deal with the uncomfortable and often embarrassing health problems caused by spinal cord damage. However, patients will have to wait until the device is refined.

Dr Daniel Chew, one of the researchers involved, states that while the tests had shown the device to be effective, its progression from being tested in rats to being used to benefit humans, was “now limited by miniaturisation of the technology”.

He explains that despite the fact that the components fitted inside the rats could easily be adapted for humans, the machinery required to process and act on information collected by the electrodes around the bladder is currently a two-meter stack of equipment. A hand-held control would have to be developed before the device as a whole would be suitable for use by spinal injury patients.

Still, although this piece of machinery could improve the lives of many, Dr Chew says, “This device is not the ultimate goal, the ultimate aim is to regenerate the spinal cord. What we’re doing is restoring some function, not curing spinal cord injury.”

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