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Harvard Researchers Discover the Mechanism behind the Urge to Urinate

Update Date: Feb 09, 2013 04:57 PM EST
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Researchers have found the exact mechanism that tells you when your bladder is full and you need to rush to the nearest bathroom to avoid an embarrassing leakage. They say the study will help millions of people who suffer from an Overactive bladder, which is a condition where the affected person has sudden bladder contractions and an urgent need of urination.

The study shows that a class of proteins called integrins is responsible to send signals to the brain that the bladder needs to be emptied. These proteins send the signals to the nerves when a thin layer of cells lining the surface of the bladder called epithelium stretch with the increase in the size of the bladder. This stretching of the epithelium activates the action of the integrins.

Researchers are hopeful that the discovery will lead to finding targets that can help relieve pain and the constant urge to use the bathroom in people suffering from an overactive bladder.

"I am very hopeful that as we learn more about how the bladder senses fullness and conveys that information to the nerves and the muscles which control our ability to urinate, that this greater understanding and knowledge will lead to new treatments. It is extremely important that we do this as quickly as possible, since there are millions of people who suffer enormously from the anguish of bladder pain, incontinence and constant feelings of needing to go," said Warren G. Hill, from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, in a news release. 

The study was based on experiments conducted on a group of mice that were genetically altered to lack integrins. Researchers found that these mice had little or no bladder control when compared to mice that weren't genetically altered.

Further, researchers also found that bladders of genetically tweaked mice took longer to empty and that they were constantly squeezing.

Researchers say that since many therapeutic agents act on the cells surrounding the bladders, there are high chances of finding a drug that targets these proteins in the epithelial cells.

The study is published in FASEB Journal.

"No one wants to pee in his or her pants but the reality is that bladder problems - incontinence, frequency and pain - affect more people than we realize. This report offers hope that new drugs targeting the bladder's epithelium will succeed when current drugs fail," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief ,FASEB Journal.

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