Computational research aims to alleviate embarrassing bladder problems

The joint research focuses on understanding the electrical activity in the bladder and how this goes wrong and causes urinary incontinence.

Bladder overactivity is a common condition that increases in prevalence with age and often arises in people with diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, urinary tract infections and following spinal cord injury.  Existing treatments are very poor, mainly due to side effects which limit their use.  To that end, there is a pressing need for research such as this to develop better therapies, particularly as populations continue to age. 

The researchers will use computational tools, developed by Professor Rohit Manchanda from IIT Bombay, to analyse the bladder.  The tools provide insight into how cells regulate their electrical behaviour and have been widely used to understand the electrical activity of the brain.  However, this will be the first time they have been applied to the bladder.

Dr Keith Brain, Senior Lecturer in Neuropharmacology, at the University of Birmingham, said:

”Bladder overactivity is no fun, whether you’re in the India or the UK.  People in both countries are living longer, and with that comes ever more urinary incontinence; we need to be able to better treat this neglected and embarrassing problem.

“Our group is really keen to apply the cutting-edge computational techniques developed in India to help us understand and then better treat bladder problems.  The existing drugs just don’t work well enough to allow people to live normal lives.”

As part of the project, Engineering and Computer Science PhD students will come to Birmingham from India to conduct research.  The students will carry out experiments with biological tissues recording the electrical behaviour of bladders and then apply the analytical and computational tools to address key questions such as why bladders become overactive with age and diseases such as diabetes.  

The researchers will then develop new ways of treating bladder dysfunction, using an iterative approach where new computational discoveries feed back into laboratory experiments.  The results will be used in redesigning the computational models as the researchers gain a greater understanding.  In turn, the students will return to India with valuable experience in applied electrophysiology and pharmacology. 

The research project is funded by the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) as part of the Innovation Partnerships strand.  This initiative aims to provide opportunities for UK and Indian universities and institutions to collaborate on thematic partnerships to enhance the innovation capacity of both India and the UK. It promotes partnerships between higher education institutions which focus on innovation and new areas of development in research, in areas relevant to both countries.


Notes to Editors:

The University of Birmingham was established in 1900 and was the UK’s first civic university where students from all religions and backgrounds were accepted on an equal basis.  A founding member of the Russell Group, it is one of the United Kingdom’s internationally acclaimed research–intensive universities.  The University’s work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 4,000 international students from nearly 150 different countries. 

The University of Birmingham’s engagement with India spans over 100 years.  The first Indian students came to Birmingham in 1909 to study degrees in Mining and Commerce and there are now more than 1000 Indian alumni.  The University currently has over 180 students from India studying a wide range of subjects – at all levels from foundation to doctoral research.

The University’s India Office opened in New Delhi in 2009.  This was the first overseas office of the University of Birmingham and has been established to maintain partnerships with local providers, support the alumni in India, further consolidate research collaborations and provide local services to those students who wish to study at the University.

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