It's become traditional that Dr Chris nips to the little boys' room five minutes before every show, but scientists in Belgium have found a gene that may be partly responsible for the urge to spend a penny. Normally, when our bladder gets full, then this sends signals to the muscles around it telling them to contract, meaning a trip to the toilet is in order.
Bernd Nilius and his team have found that if a gene called TRPV4 is faulty in mice, then they become incontinent. This means that they no longer have that level of control over their bladder muscles, and just go all the time. The researchers also looked at bladders taken from mice with the faulty gene, and found that they sent smaller chemical signals telling the muscles to contract, compared with bladder from mice with an intact version of TRPV4.
The TRPV4 gene makes a protein that sits in the wall of cells that line the bladder, and helps to send signals that tell the bladder muscles to contract. The researchers think that it has an important role in translating the signals that the bladder is full into muscle contraction that allows a controlled trip to the loo. Although these are just experiments in mice, there is the possibility that TRPV4 might be a target for treatments to help with bladder problems such as incontinence.