Researchers test new way to restore bladder control after spinal cord injury

Twenty nine-year-old Hinesh Patel broke his neck and damaged his spine when he fell off a balcony last year. The M.D., Ph.D. student has traveled the world and was super active. He's getting back mobility, but so far, not the ability to urinate without a catheter.

"Now you really have to think about that because if you don't manage it well, then you can also get worse health problems," Patel says.

UCLA's Dr. Daniel Lu is running his second study using a magnet to stimulate the part of the spinal cord that controls bladder function.

"The injury's oftentimes not a complete injury. There are residual pathways still connected past the injury point," Lu says.

In the first study, five men got magnetic stimulation for 15 minutes a week. After four months, two stopped using a catheter completely, two had substantial improvement, and one had moderate improvement.

"It modifies the signal in such a way that it become functional, that the neurons and circuits at the spinal cord level can interpret that as a viable signal," Lu adds.

Patel is in Dr. Lu's second trial. He's gone in for 15 minutes twice a week for four months. It's a blinded study, so he doesn't know if he's actually getting treatment, but believes he's regaining sensation.

"Just means more control over your life in that regard."

The magnetic stimulation device is FDA approved but is experimental for this particular use.
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