New Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction: Gene Therapy

Medical Reviewer

Viagra, soon followed by Cialis and Levitra, helped pave the way for innovative treatments of erectile dysfunction. Future medications will seek to capitalize on these positive effects. It is inevitable that pharmaceutical companies will look to develop drugs that work more quickly, more effectively and have fewer side effects. After all, although existing medications are highly effective, around 40 percent of men find the effects of limited or no value.

There's no dismissing the importance of refining oral medications but in some ways all that men with erectile dysfunction can expect is more of the same. That is, unless we consider the potential of gene therapy.

In 2006, the internet science site, reported the progress of Dr. Arnold Melman. At the time, Dr. Melman was professor of Urology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center. Dr. Melman had just introduced the world to a transfer gene known as Maxi-K.

Gene therapy evokes strong reactions in people, but Melman adopted an approach using "naked DNA", which does not integrate with chromosomal DNA cells and effectively acts as an independent and non-permanent treatment. Maxi-K works by, "stimulating potassium ion transfer in the smooth muscle cells of the penis", says Melman. During phase 1 of testing with 11 men, no adverse effects were seen. Positive effects lasted for six months before patients reverted to their previous state.

In 2008, HealthDay News, provided an update. Two studies were presented at the American Urological Association's annual meeting in Orlando. Melman reported that during two years of follow up, no adverse effects were seen. With just two doses a year, most men would be able to maintain normal sexual functioning, he stated. Moreover, a survey of urologists pointed to 50 percent that would consider switching their patients to gene therapy. An encouraging early sign according to Melman.

An interesting side effect of the medication was that men increased their socialization levels. Now this is a side effect most men would probably be happy to sign up to, if they are prepared to go down the gene therapy route. After more trials, Dr Melman hopes a product may be available for treatment by 2010.