Cancer, birth defects, nerve damage or traumatic injury can ravage this organ that most people take for granted. Current surgical techniques to repair such problems are less than perfect and patients often develop complications.
In the February issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology, researchers report that artificial bladders grown in a laboratory have worked well for nearly a year in dogs. The news raises the hope of a similar treatment for humans with serious bladder disease.
Dr. Anthony Atala, a urology surgeon at Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, led a team of scientists who took small bits of bladder tissue from six dogs and grew the cells into artificial bladders. They then removed the animals own bladders and replaced them with the organs grown in the lab.
The artificial bladders worked normally for the entire eleven months of the study.
While scientists have studied artificial bladders before, "this is the best one I've ever seen," says Dr. Eli A. Friedman, editor of the journal of the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs.
Other groups must confirm the work, but Friedman says Atala's results provide strong evidence that the technique is viable. More research must be done before any human trials are undertaken.