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New treatment to beat severe incontinence


Scientists have developed a potential treatment for severe incontinence that means the millions of sufferers worldwide could one day throw away their incontinence pads.

University of Melbourne scientists, who developed the technique, have now licensed the intellectual property to Continence Control Systems International P/L (CCS), an Australian company created to commercialise the technology that will address a worldwide potential market of more than A$1 billion per year.

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine from the bladder. The research team from three University departments (Anatomy, Zoology and Surgery) has found a way of creating a ring of muscle from the patient’s own body and transplanting it to the bladder where it acts as a replacement sphincter. One of the causes of the most common type of urinary incontinence, known as stress incontinence, is when the sphincter muscle no longer dependably keeps urine in the bladder.

The replacement sphincter is controlled by an implanted electrical stimulator that should, for the first time, give sufferers of severe stress incontinence, a reliable method of passing urine only when they want. Under terms of an exclusive supply agreement with CCS, the necessary implanted technology will be provided by Cochlear Limited.

"The only surgical solutions available until now have involved prosthetic devices that have had problems with leakage, failure and adverse tissue reactions," says University of Melbourne’s Professor John Furness and one of the inventors of the treatment.

"This treatment has the potential to revolutionise the management of severe urinary incontinence which afflicts tens of thousands of people worldwide. This is a miserable condition, and if not effectively managed, can result in people entering nursing homes or institutions because they are unable to cope," he says.

"The most common cause of a defective sphincter muscle is trauma to the area, for example as a complication of prostate surgery in men, or more frequently in women as they reach menopause, particularly if they have had children," says Furness.

CCS will seek to raise up to $A8M in equity funds to complete the development work leading to clinical trials in 2005, which if successful, will result in a commercial product available for sale within five years.

"The number of people suffering from this condition means there is a large potential market. This research breakthrough by the University and access to Cochlear’s technology creates a partnership of two of Australia’s greatest innovators, which will accelerate the development program," says CEO of CCS, Mr Tony Stephens.

The capital raising is being conducted by Nextec BioSciences, a Melbourne based Investment Banking Company specialising in the Biotechnology sector.

Jason Major | University of Melbourne
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