Aaron D. Mickle et al have developed a miniaturized, implantable device that could potentially help people with bladder problems in providing chronic stability by stimulating specific cell types. The soft bio-optoelectronic implant can detect overactivity in the bladder and use light from tiny bio integrated LEDs to tamp down the urge to urinate. The researchers had conducted the study on a rat model where the soft stretchy belt-like device was implanted around the bladder. Light-sensitive protein, opsins, were injected into the bladder. The opsins were carried by a virus that binds to nerve cells in the bladder, making them sensitive to light signals. The activity of the bladder could be controlled using an external hand-held Bluetooth device. During abnormally frequent emptying of bladder, the external device can send a signal that activates the micro-LEDs on the device, which activates the sensory neurons in the bladder, thus restoring normal bladder activity. Unlike conventional continuous stimulation protocols, this integrated closed loop operation essentially delivers therapy only when a problem is detected, avoiding discomfort and pain. Though the stable expression of opsin using the viral approach is still a concerning issue, researchers hope to soon develop it to help people who suffer from severe bladder problems.
Source: Nature volume 565, pages361–365 (2019) Published: 02 January 2019 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0823-6