Targeted neuromodulation of pelvic floor nerves in aging and multiparous rabbits improves continence

Ana G. Hernandez-Reynoso, Dora L. Corona-Quintanilla, Kenia López-García, Ana A. Horbovetz, Francisco Castelán, Philippe Zimmern, Margarita Martínez-Gómez, Mario I. Romero-Ortega

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Pelvic floor muscle stretch injury during pregnancy and birth is associated with the incidence of stress urinary incontinence (SUI), a condition that affects 30–60% of the female population and is characterized by involuntary urine leakage during physical activity, further exacerbated by aging. Aging and multiparous rabbits suffer pelvic nerve and muscle damage, resulting in alterations in pelvic floor muscular contraction and low urethral pressure, resembling SUI. However, the extent of nerve injury is not fully understood. Here, we used electron microscopy analysis of pelvic and perineal nerves in multiparous rabbits to describe the extent of stretch nerve injury based on axon count, axon size, myelin-to-axon ratio, and elliptical ratio. Compared to young nulliparous controls, mid-age multiparous animals showed an increase in the density of unmyelinated axons and in myelin thickness in both nerves, albeit more significant in the bulbospongiosus nerve. This revealed a partial but sustained damage to these nerves, and the presence of some regenerated axons. Additionally, we tested whether electrical stimulation of the bulbospongiosus nerve would induce muscle contraction and urethral closure. Using a miniature wireless stimulator implanted on this perineal nerve in young nulliparous and middle age multiparous female rabbits, we confirmed that these partially damaged nerves can be acutely depolarized, either at low (2–5 Hz) or medium (10–20 Hz) frequencies, to induce a proportional increase in urethral pressure. Evaluation of micturition volume in the mid-age multiparous animals after perineal nerve stimulation, effectively reversed a baseline deficit, increasing it 2-fold (p = 0.02). These results support the notion that selective neuromodulation of pelvic floor muscles might serve as a potential treatment for SUI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10615
JournalScientific reports
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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