Lead researcher Dr. Martha Haahr, of Odense University Hospital in Denmark, and colleagues found that within 6 months of the procedure, 8 of the 21 men treated were able to engage in spontaneous sexual intercourse.
The researchers recently presented their findings at EAU17 – the European Association of Urology’s annual conference – held in London in the United Kingdom.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition whereby a man has difficulties getting or maintaining an erection in order to engage in sexual intercourse. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, around 12 percent of men under the age of 60, and 22 percent of men aged between 60 and 69, have ED.
High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and prostate surgery are some of the physical conditions that can cause ED. Psychological issues – such as anxiety, stress, depression, and low self-esteem – can also contribute to ED.
Current treatments for ED include PDE5 inhibitors (such as Viagra), penile implants, and injections. However, Dr. Haahr and team note that all of these therapies can have significant side effects. As a result, researchers are on the hunt for alternative treatments for ED, and stem cell therapy has emerged as a promising candidate in animal trials.
In their phase I trial, Dr. Haahr and colleagues tested stem cell therapy on 21 men who had ED as a result of undergoing radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer. None of the men had responded to standard medical treatment for ED.
For the stem cell procedure, abdominal fat cells were extracted from each man through liposuction. Stem cells were then isolated from the fat cells and injected into the corpus cavernosum of the penis – the spongy tissue that normally becomes filled with blood during an erection.
Before the stem cell procedure and 6 and 12 months after, the participants’ erectile function was assessed using the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) questionnaire. An IIEF score of 5-7 represents severe erectile dysfunction, 12-16 is mild to moderate erectile dysfunction, and 22-25 is no erectile dysfunction.