Functional Bladder Tissue Regenerated Using Bone Marrow Cells

January 30, 2024

Image: Immunofluorescence staining [magnified image] from Bury et al. (2024). Multipotent bone marrow cell-seeded polymeric composites drive long-term, definitive urinary bladder tissue regeneration. PNAS Nexus, pgae038, https://doi.org/10.1093/pnasnexus/pgae038  

Scientists from Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University succeeded in regenerating fully functional urinary bladder tissue in a long-term study utilizing a non-human primate model. This unique model initially created by the Sharma (Arun) Laboratory explores long term bladder tissue regeneration at both anatomical and physiological levels. The group used a novel biodegradable scaffold seeded with stem and progenitor cells from the animal’s own bone marrow, which demonstrated a higher degree of success than intestinal segments that are traditionally used to treat different types of bladder dysfunction. The regenerated bladder tissue was healthy after two years of monitoring and serves as a pre-clinical model for humans. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Nexus.

“Our results were fantastic and point to a new direction in the field,” said senior author Arun Sharma, PhD, Director of Pediatric Urological Regenerative Medicine at Manne Research Institute at Lurie Children’s and Research Associate Professor of Urology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “The likelihood that our innovative platform will be feasible in humans is very high and we anticipate launching a clinical trial soon.”

Patients with severe bladder dysfunction have very limited options for bladder tissue replacement which encompass a variety of adult and pediatric patients. Dr. Sharma and colleagues are targeting the pediatric spina bifida population with their bladder regeneration work. It has taken them over a decade to reach this milestone, which bears strong potential for translation to clinical practice. Their aim is to offer a better alternative to current bladder augmentation surgery for severe bladder disease. Currently, small intestine tissue is used to replace dysfunctional bladder tissue, but that increases the risk of numerous clinical complications.

“Our innovative approach is promising to make a great difference in the lives of children with spina bifida and others with end stage bladder dysfunction,” said Dr. Sharma. “Since we would be using the patient’s own bone marrow cells, there are no concerns with rejection and our scaffold is non-toxic and biodegradable. In our study, the bladder started working within a few months and demonstrated functionality throughout the course of the study. This is a major advance that will transform clinical practice.”

This work was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

Research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute, which is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is a nonprofit organization committed to providing access to exceptional care for every child. It is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. Lurie Children’s is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.