This study aimed to investigate the feasibility of autologous muscle progenitor cell
transplantation for anal sphincter regeneration in a rabbit model of anal incontinence
. We examined the serial changes in structure, with particular emphasis on histology and functional properties of the anal sphincter.
External anal sphincterotomy was performed in 21 rabbits; these rabbits were randomly assigned to 2 groups. In group I (n = 9), autologous muscle progenitor cells were isolated from quadriceps myofiber explants, labeled with PKH-26, and injected into sphincter 3 weeks after sphincterotomy. In group II (n = 12), saline buffer was injected at the site of damage. Sphincter electromyography and manometry were performed immediately before sphincterotomy and 14, 28, and 60 days after injection in 3 animals in each group at every interval and the findings were correlated with histomorphological studies. In addition, electromyography and manometry were performed in the remaining 3 rabbits in group II after 6 months.
In group II, a flaccid sphincter persisted during the 6 months of follow-up. In group I, muscle progenitor autografting accelerated sphincter myofiber repair and improvement in functional capacity of the damaged sphincter. Fluorescently labeled cells were detected in all of the grafted sphincters; regenerated myotubes were detectable at the injection site as evidenced by the presence of desmin. We also observed a significant decrease in interstitial fibrosis in the 4th week and strikingly higher amounts of Ki-67-positive cells in group I. Manometry and electromyography showed a significant improvement in the mean resting anal canal pressure and sphincteric electrical activity 4 weeks after cell injection, respectively.
Transplanting muscle progenitor cells showed the potential for recapitulation of a myogenic program when injected into deficient rabbit anal sphincter. Objective anal measures of resting and stimulated pressures and electromyographic profile improved. Stem cell-mediated anal myoplasty warrants additional investigation as a new method to treat anal incontinence
before attempting this modality in the clinical setting.