The shortage of donors for organ transplantation has stimulated research on stem cells as a potential resource for cell-based therapy in all human tissues. Stem cells have been used for regenerative medicine applications in many organ systems, including the genitourinary system. The potential applications for stem cell therapy have, however, been restricted by the ethical issues associated with embryonic stem cell research. Instead, scientists have explored other cell sources, including progenitor and stem cells derived from adult tissues and stem cells derived from the amniotic fluid and placenta. In addition, novel techniques for generating stem cells in the laboratory are being developed. These techniques include somatic cell nuclear transfer, in which the nucleus of an adult somatic cell is placed into an oocyte, and reprogramming of adult cells to induce stem-cell-like behavior. Such techniques are now being used in tissue engineering applications, and some of the most successful experiments have been in the field of urology. Techniques to regenerate bladder tissue have reached the clinic, and exciting progress is being made in other areas, such as regeneration of the kidney and urethra. Cell therapy as a treatment for incontinence and infertility might soon become a reality. Physicians should be optimistic that regenerative medicine and tissue engineering will one day provide mainstream treatment options for urologic disorders.
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