Researchers have coaxed human stem cells into becoming bladder cells that could aid in repairing defective or diseased bladders, according to a study published online ahead of print in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

The breakthrough study was conducted by Eric Kuzrock, MD, professor and chief of the pediatric urologic surgery at UC Davis Children’s Hospital and colleagues.

“Our goal is to use human stem cells to regenerate tissue in the lab that can be transplanted into patients to augment or replace their malfunctioning bladders,”said lead investigator Eric Kuzrock, MD, professor and chief of the pediatric urologic surgery at University of California Davis Children’s Hospital.

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He and his colleagues observed two key categories of human stem cells: plutipotent cells and umbilical blood cells. Using pluripotent embryonic stem cells obtained from the National Institutes of Health’s repository, they were able to coax them into becoming bladder cells. Using the same method, they then coaxed skin and umbilical cord blood cells into developing into a functioning urothelium.

“When we can reliably direct and differentiate pluripotent stem cells, we have more options to develop new and effective regenerative medicine therapies,” said Jan Nolta, PhD, a co-author of the study. “The protocols we used to create bladder tissue also provide insight into other types of tissue regeneration.”

The study is significant because it could help to regenerate replacement bladder tissue for patients with dysfunctional bladders, such as children with spina bifida or patients diagnosed with bladder cancer.

In future studies, they plan to develop a method that does not rely on human or animal products so that the cells can actually be used in patients.