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Stemming Incontinence: Injected muscle cells restore urinary control

Stem cells taken from a woman's arm and used to rebuild a pivotal control muscle in her urinary tract can relieve incontinence, medical researchers report. For women, this replenishing of muscle cells offers "a revolutionary therapy," claims radiologist Ferdinand Frauscher of the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria.

Typical urinary incontinence in women, called stress incontinence, results from weakness in the sphincter muscle that seals the urethra at the base of the bladder. Age, childbirth, and other factors can make sphincter contraction less effective. Treatments such as surgery and implantable devices that control urine flow can be effective, but they both require hospitalization and the devices can be cumbersome.

The Austrian team's new technique is less likely to work in men, Frauscher says, because male incontinence often turns up after prostate surgery, and the scar tissue would be likely to prevent stem cells from rebuilding the muscle.

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