Marijuana-related chemical may treat incontinence

August 31, 2005

Karla Gale, Reuters Health

A synthetic version of the active ingredient in marijuana, called IP751, could be a useful treatment for urinary incontinence, according to animal study findings presented this week at the annual meeting of the International Continence Society.

In a separate presentation, the research team suggests that stem cells derived from human muscle can restore normal bladder function.

IP751 has both anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties, Dr. Michael Chancellor told Reuters Health. Previous research suggested that the drug is effective in treating chronic nerve pain, he said, and unlike its marijuana relative, it does not enter the brain and cause psychological effects.

Based on these properties, he and his colleagues theorized that IP751 could help bladder pain and frequent urination in a painful bladder syndrome.

For their research, Chancellor, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and his associates induced bladder irritation in mice by injecting a vinegar solution into the bladder.

Treatment with IP751 caused the bladder to contract normally and restored the normal pressure threshold.

"It worked every bit as well as pills currently in clinical use" for reducing bladder overactivity, Chancellor noted. But because current treatments don't really reduce pain caused by this condition, he believes that IP751's properties will be particularly beneficial.

In the second study, Chancellor's group tested the effect of human muscle-derived stem cells in reducing urinary incontinence in rats.

The animals received injections of saline or stem cells one week after the onset of urinary incontinence, which was induced by inactivating specific nerves. The stem cell injections helped restore muscle function and prevent urine leakage, whereas the saline injection didn't.

Stress urinary incontinence causes urine leakage because of weak or damaged muscles, Chancellor explained. The stem cell therapy works by building up the damaged muscles.

Based on his successful treatment of two patients with incontinence using muscle-derived stem cells, the group is now planning a multicenter clinical trial.

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