SUNDAY, June 3, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Gene therapy using nerve growth factors reversed erectile dysfunction in rats within four weeks, say University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects between 15 million and 30 million men in the United States. Many men suffer nerve damage-related ED after surgery for prostate cancer.
The Pittsburgh team found that the genes for the "glial cell line derived neurotrophic factor" (GDNF) and the GDNF family ligand, called neurturin, were both effective in treating erectile dysfunction in the rats. The genes were placed in a genetically engineered herpes simplex virus, which was then injected into the rats' damaged cavernous nerve.
The finding suggests a potential new treatment for ED in men.
"Because the herpes virus persists in the nerve cell for as long as it is alive and nerve cells typically do not reproduce, this represents the first-ever demonstration of a long-term treatment for ED that does not rely on the chronic administration of drugs that can have potentially harmful side effects," study co-leader Joseph C. Glorioso, chairman of the department of biochemistry and molecular genetics, said in a prepared statement.
The study was to be presented over the weekend at the annual meeting of the American Society of Gene Therapy, in Seattle.
The American Urological Association has more about erectile dysfunction.