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Gene Therapy Works To Improve Erectile Dysfunction Resulting from Diabetes

Armen Hareyan's picture

Researchers from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center have found that for diabetic rats, gene therapy can improve erectile dysfunction.

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To show that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene therapy leads to improvement in erectile dysfunction, researchers prepared three groups of rats, a normal control group and two groups in which diabetes had been induced. After six weeks of confirmed hypoglycemia in the diabetic rats, one group received VEGF gene therapy and the other group did not. Nine weeks after induction of diabetes, researchers measured the rats' intercavernous pressure in response to intercavernous stimulation; that is, the rats were stimulated to have erections and the strength of the blood flow was gauged. Control rats exhibited normal erectile function while the untreated diabetic rats' erectile pressure was only half that of the controls. Rats that had received VEGF gene therapy had erectile strength in between the controls' and the untreated diabetic rats'. It was confirmed through DNA and protein expression analysis that the gene therapy had been effective in the treated rats.

Analysis of the cavernosal tissue from rats in the treated diabetic group showed an increased number of smooth muscle cells compared to the diabetic control group.

"This research may hold the key for diabetic men experiencing erectile dysfunction," remarked Peter Schlegel, MD, Vice-President of the Society of Reproductive Surgeons. "If the technique can be translated to humans, it could greatly improve patients' quality of life, relieving them of having to resort to drugs, devices or surgery." O-27 Mills et al, Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene therapy using a non-viral gene delivery system improves erectile function in a diabetic rat model.