Optical techniques combo reveals new cells in the urethra

March 20, 2013
Scientists at Justus Liebig University Giessen, using a combination of optical techniques, revealed the presence of a previously unknown cell in the urethra of mice, which could lead to defense against microorganisms that invade the body through the urethra.

Scientists at Justus Liebig University Giessen (Giessen, Germany), using a combination of optical techniques, revealed the presence of a previously unknown cell in the urethra of mice, which could lead to defense against microorganisms that invade the body through the urethra.1 The chemosensory cholinergic brush cells they found are in close contact to sensory neurons that express cholinergic receptors (cells that respond to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that sends messages from motor nerves to muscles in the bladder).

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The combination of techniques they used to detect and characterize these brush cells included confocal laser scanning microscopy analysis and 3D reconstruction, immunofluorescence, and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Based on their findings using these techniques, the scientists suggest that urethral brush cells may be able to detect hazardous substances such as the pathogens that cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). These pathogens are triggered by bacteria entering the body through the urethra, explains Katharina Filipski of the Anatomy and Cell Biology Department at Justus-Liebig-University Giessen. "A further exploration of this cell population will provide insight into cellular interaction and defensive measures against pathogens," she adds.

Filipski and colleagues say that their work is promising as a protective function that could fortify the immune barrier and prevent UTIs by helping patients with the infection avoid reflexes as micturition (the discharge of urine).

1. K. Filipski et al., "A new cell in the urogenital tract – cholinergic chemosensory brush cells are sentinels of the urethra," 28th Annual EAU Congress, 62, Milan, Italy (March 15–19, 2013).

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