Soft, implantable device designed to control urge to urinate: study

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- American scientists have developed a tiny, implantable device that may spare patients with bladder problems from using medicine or electronic stimulators.

The study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, described the soft device that can detect over-activity in the bladder and use light from bio-integrated LEDs to tamp down the urge to urinate.

The device worked in lab rats who suffer incontinence or frequently feel the need to urinate and might one day be used in human, according to researchers from Washington University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University.

Previously, those with severe bladder problems have been treated with stimulators that send an electric current to the nerve that controls the bladder, but they also can disrupt normal nerve signaling to other organs.

The researchers implanted a soft, stretchy belt-like device around the bladder. As the bladder fills and empties, the belt expands and contracts.

They also injected proteins called opsins into the animals' bladders, making nerve cells in the bladder sensitive to external light signals.

"When the bladder is emptying too often, the external device sends a signal that activates micro-LEDs on the bladder band device, and the lights then shine on sensory neurons in the bladder," said Robert Gereau with Washington University, one of the study's senior researchers.

"This reduces the activity of the sensory neurons and restores normal bladder function," said Gereau.

Devices for people are likely to be implanted without surgery, using catheters to place them through the urethra into the bladder, according to the researchers. Enditem

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