Regenerative medicine for anal incontinence: a review of regenerative therapies beyond cells

Int Urogynecol J. 2021 Sep;32(9):2337-2347. doi: 10.1007/s00192-020-04620-x.Epub 2020 Nov 28.

Andre Plair 1, Julie Bennington 2, James Koudy Williams 2, Candace Parker-Autry 3, Catherine Ann Matthews 3, Gopal Badlani 3


Author information

  • 1Department of Urology, Wake Forest Baptist Health, Winston Salem, NC, USA. arplair@post.harvard.edu.
  • 2Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.
  • 3Department of Urology, Wake Forest Baptist Health, Winston Salem, NC, USA.


Introduction and hypothesis: Current treatment modalities for anal sphincter injuries are ineffective for many patients, prompting research into restorative and regenerative therapies. Although cellular therapy with stem cells and progenitor cells show promise in animal models with short-term improvement, there are additional regenerative approaches that can augment or replace cellular therapies for anal sphincter injuries. The purpose of this article is to review the current knowledge of cellular therapies for anal sphincter injuries and discusses the use of other regenerative therapies including cytokine therapy with CXCL12.

Methods: A literature search was performed to search for articles on cellular therapy and cytokine therapy for anal sphincter injuries and anal incontinence.

Results: The article search identified 337 articles from which 33 articles were included. An additional 12 referenced articles were included as well as 23 articles providing background information. Cellular therapy has shown positive results for treating anal sphincter injuries and anal incontinence in vitro and in one clinical trial. However, cellular therapy has disadvantages such as the source and processing of stem cells and progenitor cells. CXCL12 does not have such issues while showing promising in vitro results for treating anal sphincter injuries. Additionally, electrical stimulation and extracorporeal shock wave therapy are potential regenerative medicine adjuncts for anal sphincter injuries. A vision for future research and clinical applications of regenerative medicine for anal sphincter deficiencies is provided.

Conclusion: There are viable regenerative medicine therapies for anal sphincter injuries beyond cellular therapy. CXCL12 shows promise as a focus of therapeutic research in this field.

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