bladder function and spinal cord injury

Development of approaches to improve bladder function following spinal cord injury

More than 17,000 Americans suffer from spinal cord injuries yearly, and many of these patients suffer from lower urinary tract dysfunction. One of these bladder disorders is detrusor-sphincter dyssynergia, where the detrusor muscle constricts to push urine out of the bladder, and the urethral sphincters relax to allow urine to pass out the urethra, cannot coordinate their actions to produce a void. Electrical neuromodulation technologies can improve symptoms of lower urinary tract dysfunction. Still, due to the complexity of the circuit and neural systems involved, these therapies are unable to initiate a coordinated voiding contraction on-demand. We are developing an optogenetic neuromodulatory approach to target and independently control the two main neuronal systems (parasympathetic and somatic motor) that are integral to the voiding reflex. Further, we are working on a class of drugs called ampakines that we have shown can acutely improve bladder function in a model of spinal cord injury.