Bladder control restored for the first time in animals with stark spinal cord damage
Paralyzed rats can now decide for themselves when it’s time to take a leak. Animals in a new study regained bladder control thanks to a new treatment that coaxes severed nerves to grow.
Instead of dribbling out urine, the rodents squeezed out shots of pee almost as well as healthy rats do, researchers report June 25 in the Journal of Neuroscience. The study is the first to regenerate nerves that restore bladder function in animals with severely injured spinal cords.
“This is a very big deal,” says neurologist John McDonald of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Md. If the treatment works in people with spinal cord injuries, he says, “it would change their lives.”
Unlike paralyzed rats, severely paralyzed humans can’t leak urine to relieve a full bladder. Unless injured people are fitted with a catheter, urine backs up into the kidneys. “These people get kidney failure all the time,” says stud