It appears to be only a matter of time until stem cell research enables revolutionary treatments that could cure all sorts of ailments, using nothing but the patients’ own cells. While this possibility remains a mirage into the future, there is already very compelling research being done. One area of interest that has been recently graced with the therapeutic potential of this technique is male erectile dysfunction. This condition, which is common in middle-aged and older men, takes a toll on many patients’ sexual proficiency, seriously undermining their happiness, self-confidence, self-esteem and relationships.
A study recently presented at the European Association of Urology conference event in the UK highlights the possibilities that stem cell therapy offers for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Martha Haahr, from the Odense University Hospital, used the patient’s own fat stem cells to perform an experimental stem cell therapy treatment for radical prostatectomy-induced erectile dysfunction. The phase 1 clinical trial included 21 men with erectile dysfunction. The relatively simple procedure consisted of injecting the patients’ stem cells into the corpus cavernosum of their penises.
After a period of 6 months, 8 men had regained a notable degree of erectile function, being able to enjoy spontaneous erections and capable of penetration during sexual intercourse. This improvement remained even after a year of the initial observation, and no significant side effects occurred in any of the participants. The extent of the improvements was formally assessed through the International Index of Erectile Function Questionnaire.
While less than half of the participants benefited from the treatment, the results are still significant, especially taking into account that only continent men regained sexual function (which denotes a specific mechanism related to continence that the stem cells may have affected). Dr. Martha Haahr highlights that this was the first clinical trial where stem cells were successfully used to restore sexual function in men. The results are even more valuable given the long-term effects of the therapy in participants who previously had no luck with traditional treatments.
Typical treatments involving PDE5 drugs such as Viagra or Levitra help gain lost erectile function to some extent, but they don’t work for all men. The cause of erectile dysfunction dictates the efficacy of these solutions. Alternative treatments are, therefore, necessary to combat male erectile dysfunction from other angles. The results of this study prove that stem cell therapy might hold the key for a potential permanent solution for males in the future. Following these preliminary results, Dr. Martha Haahr cautions that more studies are necessary to solidify the current findings.