Men suffering from erectile dysfunction after prostate surgery may soon be able to turn to stem cell therapy for help. Clinical trials are still in their early stages, but the results are promising.
Prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia, or an enlarged prostate, are common reasons for prostate surgery. The prostate is a gland that produces the fluid that carries sperm. Surgeons may need to remove part of the prostate or the whole of it as necessary. Conditions like diabetes, vascular disease, high blood pressure, and psychological problems can also impact sexual performance.
There are of course current remedies to erectile dysfunction, but they are not without disadvantages. Thus, scientists are looking for a way to restore natural sexual function.
Failure to perform sexually can be distressing. It can cause performance anxiety as well as problems within relationships. Unfortunately, erectile dysfunction is a common side effect of prostate surgery. Nearly every man who has undergone prostate surgery will have trouble with sexual performance. This is because the surgery will have impacted the nerves and blood vessels that play a role in erections. Over half of men who have undergone prostate surgery can regain the ability to have an erection after about two years.
Of course, these numbers aren't all that promising. Fortunately, researchers have found that stem cell therapy may be able to return sexual function to post-surgery men.
Stem cell therapy entails injecting a patient's own stem cells into erectile tissue. Doctors remove abdominal fat cells from the patient to create stem cells. The cells are then treated so they can mutate into and perform like almost any other cell. After injection, the stem cells begin to transform into nerve cells and endothelial cells that line blood vessels. Patients can go home the same day as the procedure.
In the first clinical trials, eight out of 15 participants were able to have intercourse six months after one treatment. The men did not have to resort to taking erectile dysfunction medication. The researchers also monitored the participants and their condition for a year after the treatment. They found that the earlier results were holding strong.
Stem cell therapy may be a better alternative to having to take medication each time a man wants to have intercourse. The researchers say that their technique can let the patients regain the ability to have erections spontaneously—that is, without the help of medication or implants.
Health authorities in Denmark, where the trials were held, have given the go-ahead for the next phase of trials. In this phase, one group of participants will receive stem cell therapy, while another one will receive placebos.
The researchers themselves are very optimistic about their findings, and are moving forward in developing the therapy. They plan on developing the same therapy for men suffering from erectile dysfunction due to causes other than surgery. Initial findings indicate that the therapy can be a long term solution, so this can turn into an important part of helping men regain sexual function.
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