Erectile dysfunction (ED) was once believed to be psychological; however, now doctors understand that ED occurs as a result of systemic disease, aging, loss of blood flow, lack of nitric oxide, or due to nerve injury. Additionally, urologic diseases such as Peyronie’s disease and cavernous nerve injury can also contribute to ED.
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is characterized as the inability to develop or maintain an erection during sex. Erections are caused by the flow of blood to the penis during sexual arousal, which is triggered by a neurological process within the brain. The most common causes of ED are cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological problems, hormone insufficiencies, and drug side effects.
When damage to the neurovascular bundles and autonomic innervations of the penis are to blame, scarring of the corpus cavernosa occurs, dramatically reducing a man’s ability to maintain an erection. Until recently, this condition was considered irreversible.
However, new research has shown that autologous stem cells (i.e. stem cells harvested from a man’s own body) can be used to eradicate ED, no matter the cause.
The Benefits of Stem Cells
There are numerous types of analogous stem cells; however, adipose derived stem cells have shown great promise for the treatment of numerous disorders. Adipose derived stem cells are harvested from a patient’s own adipose tissue, which yields many more stem cells than blood or bone marrow.
For many diseases, the number of stem cells used for treatment is important for successful treatment, which makes adipose derived stem cells particularly useful. For instance, for every 200 milliliters of adipose tissue obtained during liposuction, millions of stem cells can be harvested versus thousands from bone marrow.
In addition, autologous means that stem cells are derived from within a patient’s own body. This means there is low risk of an adverse immune reaction. Adipose derived stem cells can differentiate into other types of cells, targeting the exact area of the body that requires treatment.
Autologous adipose derived stem cells used here are derived from the stromal vascular fraction (SVF). The SVF contains pre-adipocyte, peri-vascular, and hematopoietic cells, among others. Cells are obtained under IRB-approved protocols, which can yield 10 million to 40 million stem cells.
Stem Cell Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction
Not only has stem cell therapy been shown to improve erectile dysfunction, but in many instances they can be used to treat the underlying cause of ED as well.
For instance, in a rat study, stem cells were shown to cause significant improvements in the condition of rats with cavernosal nerve injury. In humans, cavernous nerve injury affects erectile function primarily following a radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer.1
Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and advanced age all common causes for erectile dysfunction due to decreased nitric oxide in the blood stream. In an exciting human study, 7 men with diabetic impotence underwent a single intra-cavernous stem cell injection. Following this procedure, blood glucose levels decreased, dosage for anti-diabetic medication was reduced, and glycosylated hemoglobin levels improved. Within 1 month, 6 out of 7 men regained morning erections.2
Researchers recently reported a new development in stem cell research and ED at the European Association of Urology conference in London. In a trial with 21 men whose impotence was caused by radical prostatectomy, 8 patients were able to regain the ability to develop spontaneous erections suitable for intercourse following penile injections with adipose derived stem cells. Results were achieved within 6 months of treatment, and were maintained at 1-year follow up appointments3.
In similar studies performed at Cell Surgical Network, 78.3% of men with ED have experienced improved erectile function scores following stem cell treatment.