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Application of Stem Cell in Human Erectile Dysfunction

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Erectile dysfunction is the inability of a male to attain a sufficient penile erection. Read the article to learn about the use of stem cells in its treatment.

Written by

Dr. Saima Yunus

Published At January 5, 2023
Reviewed AtJanuary 18, 2024

Introduction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition that affects the sexual relations and quality of life of more than half of the male population over 40 years. This condition is believed to affect more than 300 million men in the next five years. Various studies have recommended the application of stem cells for the treatment of erectile dysfunction with promising results as it helps repair damaged tissues efficiently.

Since the 1990s, stem cells have been employed to treat various diseases and have shown potential. Their wide application reflects the importance of their anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory (a substance that suppresses or stimulates the immune system), and therapeutic properties. Stem cells have helped treat cardiovascular, autoimmune, neurological, and hematologic diseases, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injuries. It is possible that diseases or pathological conditions of the urinary system would also benefit from using stem cells.

What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is a common disorder that leads to the inability of a male to attain and maintain a penile erection for sexual intercourse. Usually, men above 40 years are affected by erectile dysfunction, which has a massive impact on their sexual life. The causes of erectile dysfunction include

  • Damage of the nerves responsible for the erection.

  • Side effects due to medications.

  • Alterations in hormone levels such as testosterone.

The concern regarding erectile dysfunction has increased over the past few years, and currently, it is regarded as a public health problem. Various disorders are related to endothelial dysfunction (a type of coronary artery disease), which is linked to serious erectile dysfunction and is chiefly regulated by the vascular endothelium. The disorders that are associated with erectile dysfunction include the following.

  • Diabetes mellitus (a condition characterized by high blood glucose).

  • Cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke.

  • Parkinson’s disease (central nervous system defect that affects movement).

  • Pelvic nerve injury.

Earlier, the treatment of erectile dysfunction involved transient enhancement of penile erection. Currently, the most widely used treatment options include phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitors such as Avanafil, Vardenafil, Sildenafil, and Tadalafil.

How Are Stem Cells Used for Human Erectile Dysfunction?

  • Stem cells are partially differentiated or undifferentiated cells that can renew independently and differentiate into more specialized cell forms. Usually, stem cells are classified as follows according to the number of cell lines in which they could be differentiated:

    • Totipotent (zygote).

    • Pluripotent (embryonic stem cells).

    • Multipotent (hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells).

    • Unipotent.

  • When the stem cell divides, the daughter cells can either remain stem cells or differentiate into specialized cells like muscle or nerve tissue cells. The ability of the stem cell to divide, differentiate, and cause tissue regeneration is influenced by its environment.

  • The environment supports and interacts with the stem cells, transforming them to desired cell types and self-renewal. The following stem cells have been used in preclinical studies for erectile dysfunction:

    • Adipose (fat) tissue-derived stem cells.

    • Bone marrow-derived stem cells.

    • Muscle-derived stem cells.

  • The regenerative effects of stem cells are obtained by the secretion of numerous growth factors and their migration to the repair site, along with cell contact and differentiation. The damaged tissues are regenerated in these sites according to the received signals or stimuli.

  • Stem cell therapy has been employed to treat erectile dysfunction, as stem cells can differentiate into neuronal, endothelial, or smooth muscle cells. Hence, structural damage in the penile tissue can be restored.

  • In vitro, stem cell differentiation has been proven in these cells. In various animal models, preclinical studies on stem cell therapy have been shown to improve erectile dysfunction.

  • The exact mechanism has not been proven yet and includes the paracrine action of stem cells as the possible mechanism in erectile dysfunction demonstrated in animal models.

How Are the Stem Cells Delivered?

  • Stem cells can be administered in different ways. Preclinical works have particularly examined the effect of intravenous (through the vein) and intraperitoneal injections (the area that contains the abdominal organs). Studies have suggested that intravenous injections are better at improving erectile function.

  • Further studies have shown that periprostatic (the tissues around the prostate) implantation was equally effective with an intracavernosal (an injection into the base of the penis) injection. Generally, the injection is administered directly into the concerned organ.

  • Many studies suggest that even less than one percent of the injected stem cells might remain in the target tissue and could dissipate only a few days after injection.

  • Only a limited amount of stem cells remain in the target tissues after injection. However, they cause an essential effect by triggering endogenous repair and regeneration mechanisms.

  • The stem cells further promote the differentiation and propagation of progenitor cells, thereby improving the repair of the target tissue.

  • In all the clinical studies conducted on erectile dysfunction treatment, the stem cells have been delivered by direct injection in the target tissues of the penis or an intracavernosal injection.

What Are the Side Effects of Stem Cell Therapy?

Stem cell therapy might show certain side effects. Following mild side effects at the site of injection have been reported:

  • Transient redness and swelling.

  • Scrotal (external sac under the penis) and penile hematomas (blood collection outside blood vessels).

  • Mild irritation at the injection site that resolved within 48 hours.

What Are the Future Prospects of Stem Cells in Erectile Dysfunction?

The application of stem cell therapy in human erectile dysfunction has good therapeutic potential. The currently available data from the previously conducted research can be used as a base for employing stem cells to treat erectile dysfunction. However, more research for broader applications is still required. A randomized, double-blind, controlled study is urgently required to study the clinical effect of stem cell treatment in human erectile dysfunction. However, it remains a difficult task due to its invasive nature.

Conclusion

Various preclinical and clinical research have documented primary data regarding the potential efficacy and safety of stem cell therapy in human erectile dysfunction. However, future randomized clinical trials must be performed to examine their use in a sufficient number of humans over a long duration. This will help to obtain proper knowledge regarding the best therapeutic strategy and highlight the potential adverse effects associated with this therapy.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Are the Uses of Stem Cells in Research?

Stem cells, with their unique capability to form different cells of the body, make them suitable for various research purposes. Some of the common uses of stem cells for research are
 - Drug Screening: To test the safety and efficacy of new drugs. Stem cells grow into different cell types and can be used to test how the drug acts on them.
 - Disease Modeling: Stem cells are used to create disease models to study them.
Regenerative Medicine: Stem cells can be used to regenerate diseased tissues.

2.

What Are the Uses of Stem Cells in Parkinson’s Disease?

 - Disease modeling: By creating patient-specific dopaminergic neurons from stem cells in the lab, researchers can better understand the causes of Parkinson's disease (PD) and create new treatments.
 - Cell replacement therapy: In this method, dopaminergic neurons are differentiated from stem cells in a lab before being implanted into the patient's brain to replace the lost neurons. Although preliminary clinical trials and studies on animals have produced some encouraging findings, additional analysis is required to determine the safety and effectiveness of this method.
 - Neuroprotection: Stem cells can also produce substances that help protect already-damaged neurons by promoting their development and survival. When there are still a significant number of dopaminergic neurons present in the early stages of Parkinson's disease, this strategy may be especially helpful.

3.

Can Stem Cells Be Used to Treat Erectile Dysfunction?

There is some evidence to support the possibility that stem cell therapy can improve erectile dysfunction. Endothelial, smooth muscle and nerve cells are all crucial elements in the process of penile erection, and stem cells can differentiate into all these different cell types. It might be feasible to rebuild harmed or defective tissue, enhance blood flow, and regain regular erectile function by injecting stem cells into the penis. The results of several minor trials looking into the possibilities of stem cell therapy for erectile dysfunction have generally been encouraging. For instance, research from 2016 indicated that men who got intracavernous injections of adipose-derived stem cells significantly improved their erectile performance.

4.

Is There Any Review of Clinical Outcomes for the Use of Stem Cell Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction?

The journal of Sexual Medicine Reviews recently published an assessment of the clinical results of stem-cell treatment for erectile dysfunction. 741 patients from 17 trials were included in the review. The investigations used stem cells from various sources, including adipose tissue, bone marrow, and umbilical cord. The review shows patients tolerated stem-cell therapy well and were typically safe. The most frequent adverse reactions were mild discomfort and edema at the injection site. However, the review also discovered that stem-cell therapy significantly improved erectile function.

5.

Is Stem Cell Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction Approved in the United States?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved stem cell treatment for erectile dysfunction. Clinical trials and research into the efficacy and security of stem cell therapy for erectile dysfunction are still being conducted.

6.

What Are the Progress and Future Directions of Stem Cell Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction?

Current research has shown that stem cell therapy is safe and effective in treating erectile dysfunction. With few side effects, the erectile function has been shown to significantly improve in several clinical trials, including increased penile blood flow, improved penile stiffness, and higher sexual satisfaction. Future stem cell therapies for erectile dysfunction may use cutting-edge methods like tissue engineering and gene editing to maximize their therapeutic effects. In addition, to increase the accessibility and availability of stem cells for therapeutic applications, researchers are looking into utilizing various stem cell sources, including induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).

7.

What Is the Effectiveness of Stem Cell Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction?

Stem cells have the capacity to restore blood flow and repair damaged tissue, which may be helpful in treating erectile dysfunction. However, more study is required to determine this treatment's safety and effectiveness.

8.

What Is the Erectile Dysfunction Treatment That Works the Fastest?

Some of the fastest treatment options for erectile dysfunction are
 - Oral drugs: Oral medications can increase erections quickly. Examples include sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra). By boosting blood flow to the penis, these medications help to enhance erectile performance.
 - Penile injections: Penile injections can also enhance erection function swiftly. Alprostadil, a drug that aids in boosting blood flow to the penis, is frequently found in these injections. A medical practitioner typically administers this treatment.

9.

Is Erectile Dysfunction Self-Corrected?

Erectile dysfunction can sometimes resolve on its own, especially if the underlying cause is transient or connected to a particular circumstance. For instance, if anxiety or stress is the root cause, the symptoms may disappear once the stressor is gone. Similarly, if the symptoms are brought on by alcohol or drug abuse, quitting use may provide relief. However, most cases of erectile dysfunction is a chronic issue that needs to be treated medically. If untreated, it can deteriorate over time and harm a person's general well-being and quality of life.

10.

How to Treat Erectile Dysfunction Naturally?

Some of the natural remedies to treat erectile dysfunction are as follows.
 - Regular exercise.
 - Managing stress.
 - Healthy diet.
 - Quit smoking.
 - Getting enough sleep.
 - Taking natural supplements.

11.

Is Erectile Dysfunction a Lifetime Condition?

Depending on the underlying cause, erectile dysfunction may be either temporary or permanent. Erectile dysfunction caused by common causes like stress, anxiety, alcohol abuse, fatigue, and certain medications is temporary and correct once the underlying causes are removed. However, erectile dysfunction due to health conditions like neurobiological and cardiovascular disorders is permanent and needs medical attention.

12.

Can Erectile Dysfunction Be Completely Cured?

Much effective treatment for erectile dysfunction is available. However, a complete cure is not always possible. Sometimes, treating the underlying causes results in a full recovery of symptoms. For instance, treating the underlying health issue causing the symptoms, such as diabetes, hypertension, or a hormonal imbalance, will help in the correction. Yet, for some people, erectile dysfunction may be brought on by untreatable medical disorders or by irreparable harm to the nerves or blood vessels in the penis. It may not be curable in these circumstances.

13.

What Are the Foods That Can Help With Erectile Dysfunction?

There is no specific food that can cure erectile dysfunction completely. However, adding some food to the diet can improve the symptoms to a large extent. Some food items that can help with erectile dysfunction are as follows.
 - Green leafy vegetables.
 - Fatty fish.
 - Berries.
 - Nuts.
 - Dark chocolate.
Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Samer Sameer Juma Ali Altawil
Dr. Samer Sameer Juma Ali Altawil

Urology

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