Stem Cell Therapy May Be a Potential Treatment for Interstitial Cystitis

Stem Cell Therapy May Be a Potential Treatment for Interstitial Cystitis

Stem Cell Therapy May Be a Potential Treatment for Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is a painful bladder condition that affects more often women than men. The cause of this pain is currently not understood but could be due to several different factors. Stem cell therapy is presently being considered as a treatment for interstitial cystitis.


What is Interstitial Cystitis?


Interstitial cystitis is defined as the chronic inflammation of the bladder. People who have interstitial cystitis have a bladder wall that is inflamed and irritated. This inflammation can eventually scar the bladder or make it stiffen. A stiff bladder can’t expand as urine fills it. In some cases, the walls of the bladder may also bleed slightly. Some people can get sores in the bladder lining due to the inflammation. No one knows the exact cause of IC, and more than one mechanism is likely involved. Biopsies of the bladder wall in people with IC indicate various abnormalities, but it’s not clear whether these are the cause of the condition or the result of some other underlying process. Some research has focused on defects in the glycosaminoglycan layer, a part of the layer of mucus that lines and protects the bladder. Defects in the GAG layer may allow toxins in the urine to leak through and damage the underlying nerve and muscle tissues. This nerve damage may trigger pain and hypersensitivity.

Another theory being researched is an antiproliferative factor, a substance that’s found only in the urine of people with IC. APF appears to block the normal growth of cells that line the bladder and may hinder the healing process that follows any damage or irritation to bladder tissues. Scientists seeking a diagnostic test for IC are considering APF as a possible biomarker. There are several other theories about the cause of IC. It may be an infection with an unknown agent, such as a virus. Or it may be an autoimmune disorder set in motion by a bladder infection.

Mast cells normally involved in allergic responses may be releasing histamine into the bladder. Another idea is that sensory nerves in the bladder somehow “turn on” and spur the release of substances that contribute to symptoms. Because interstitial cystitis is mainly a woman’s disease, many researchers think that hormones play a role. The onset of IC is usually gradual, with bladder pain and urinary urgency and frequency developing over months. The course of the disorder and its symptoms can vary greatly from woman to woman and even in the same woman. Symptoms may change from day to day, or they may remain constant for months or years and then go away. Pain ranges from dull to sharp stabbing sensations. Discomfort while urinating fluctuates from mild stinging to burning, but nearly everyone with IC has pain associated with bladder filling and emptying. Some women with IC have a constant need to urinate because urinating helps relieve the pain.


How Can Stem Cell Therapy Treat Interstitial Cystitis?


Stem cell therapy is starting to make its way into the field of urology. It has had success in treating several other urological conditions. Animal studies have recently shown success in treating interstitial cystitis with stem cell therapy. Because of the complexities of the bladder muscle and cell wall, it may take more time to refine this treatment method. However, the early results are extremely promising.


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