School of Medicine researcher Bertha Chen, MD, has been awarded $5.98 million by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to investigate ways of using a person’s own stem cells to treat urinary incontinence.
The award was one of four given out May 24 by the state stem cell agency as part of its Translation Research Program, which aims to help move promising stem cell research out of the laboratory and into the clinic.
Urinary incontinence affects about 30 percent of adult women ages 30 to 60 and is one of the most common indications for surgery in elderly women. However, as many of one-third of the women either cannot undergo surgery or will not benefit from surgery. The condition can have a significant impact on quality of life and be emotionally devastating.
Chen, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and her team are exploring ways to use stem cells to generate the smooth muscle cells in the urinary tract that are lost in a person with urinary incontinence. If the approach works, it could also lead to new ways to treat other urinary or digestive problems caused by a loss of smooth muscle.
Other translational grants announced at the meeting included $1.7 million to Max BioPharma Inc. to pursue a stem-cell-based treatment for osteoporosis; $4.77 million to researchers at the University of California-Irvine to investigate how to regenerate damaged retinas; and $1.7 million to researchers at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute to develop a prenatal test for some types of blood cell disorders that could be amenable to early stem-cell-based treatments.
The institute also awarded nearly $12 million to researchers at UCLA to test a therapy for advanced nonsmall cell lung cancer that combines a well-known immunotherapy called pembrolizumab with an approach that genetically modifies immune cells called dendritic cells to enhance their ability to activate cancer-fighting T cells.