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Bladder Pacemaker For Incontinence

Biomedical engineering researchers from Duke University have come out with a device which is likely// to be of significance in patients who suffer from bladder control issues.

They have named this as ‘smart bladder pacemaker’ that breaks into the urinary circuit in spinal cord which is responsible for the contraction and release of muscles which is essential to sustain continence. This device is extremely useful in patients suffering from spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders.

Warren Grill of Duke's Pratt School of Engineering and his colleagues have shown in cats that electrical stimulation can engage the spinal circuitry to effectively empty the bladder, while delivery of lower frequency pulses to the same nerve can significantly increase bladder capacity and improve continence.

In fact, manipulating the nervous system provides a more flexible way of influencing urinary function than would direct bladder stimulation, Grill said.

"Stimulating the bladder directly can cause it only to contract, not to keep it from contracting," Grill said. "We stimulate the sensory inputs in the spinal cord to orchestrate either the inhibition or activation of urination.

"This illustrates an important principle: we can use the 'smarts' of the nervous system to orchestrate control of complex functions," he said.

A similar approach might also have potential for stimulating the spinal reflexes that control locomotion, Grill added. Other investigators are testing such a system for use in physical therapy for people suffering from some form of paralysis, to help them learn to walk again.

Grill presented the team's findings on Friday, Feb. 16, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco. His presentation was part of a symposium organized through the National Academies' Keck Futures Initiative. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Hea
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