What are the causes of erectile dysfunction?

Monday, 12 October 2020 | Nina Klein

Can stem cell therapy cure erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, affects nearly half of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 in one way or another. ED is defined as a disease which makes it impossible for a man to have a sufficient erection for sexual intercourse. Naturally, sexual dysfunctions are accompanied with a lot of stress for patients and their partners. In this article, we summarize the causes of ED, common treatments, and how stem cells can help treat the disease in a promising way.

What are the causes of erectile dysfunction?

There are several possible causes for ED. In general, there are organic and psychogenic causes of ED.

Organic ED can occur due to physical damage during surgery (e.g. prostate surgery), or when the patient suffers high blood pressure, diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Thus, organic ED can be divided into the following groups:

  • Vascular or vasculogenic causes – damage to vessels or worsening of their state due to age-related changes can cause ED
  • Neurogenic causes – peripheral nerve injury (often detected in diabetes mellitus and in men after surgical removal of the prostate) can cause ED
  • Endocrine causes – some diseases can lead to a decrease in testosterone production, which causes ED
  • Penile causes – penile diseases such as Peyronie's disease cause ED

Psychological problems can also cause impairment in erectile function, these are categorized into the psychogenic group. When the occurring impotence is generalized, the person is not capable of sexual arousal. The cause of that may be depression, anxiety or other mental disorders. There is also situational psychogenic ED, which can be associated with the partner or a situation.

What medical treatments are currently available for erectile dysfunction?

As mentioned previously, there are many different causes of ED, which all require a different type of treatment.

In case of hormonal imbalance or mental causes, medication is a common option. In these cases, the underlying imbalance is targeted during treatment, hoping that the ED will disappear once the cause is eliminated.

Current treatments for vascular ED include medications such as PDE5 inhibitors (commonly known as the “blue pill” you can take before intercourse). Other treatment possibilities are injections or even penile implants.

When physical injury is the cause of impotence, the only way to fully restore sexual function is to treat the underlying physical problem. This is, however, dependent on the injury and is oftentimes not very successful.

All of these remedies which are currently available have the disadvantage of only providing a symptomatic effect. In the case of penile implants or injections, the procedure is additionally invasive and can be accompanied by side effects. This is why doctors and patients have been searching to find a way to restore natural sexual function without severe side effects or time limits.

How can stem cells help with erectile dysfunction?

The regenerative properties of stem cells have been known for a while now. Since the discovery of their potential, scientists and physicians from all disciplines have tried to utilize the cells for different causes.

In the case of urology, and specifically erectile dysfunction, these effects are likely achieved by secretion of growth factors and cytokines into the blood stream, possibly in addition to migration of these factors to major pelvic ganglia as well as cellular differentiation1.

Stem cells are capable of stimulating the restoration of penile tissues as well as the blood vessels and nerves which are in that area. Stem cells can have a long-term therapeutic, but not palliative or symptomatic effect. This means that stem cells can help prevent ED, or help restore sexual function caused by injuries in the area. But stem cells do not help in the way pills like Viagra help.

What does a stem cell treatment for erectile dysfunction look like?

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are by far the most frequently used cell types in the urological field, while the most common method of stem cell delivery for ED treatment is direct injection1.

Most commonly, multiple applications are necessary within a few months to achieve results. If necessary, the treatment can also be repeated every few years.

Advances in stem cell therapy for erectile dysfunction

Since direct injections can be painful and be accompanied with potential (though mild) side effects, there is also the possibility to intravenously apply stem cells or their secretome. The stem cell secretome is the sum of all excreted components of stem cells, including exosomes, growth factors and cytokines.

The advantage of this type of application is that the possibility of side effects is incredibly low, while the effectiveness is thought to be the same.

Read more about the power of exosomes and what exactly they are here.

How much does stem cell therapy for erectile dysfunction cost?

In general, it can be said that the price for stem cell treatments for ED can vary very much, because it depends on the personal needs of the patient and what type of treatment he is actually looking for.

The source of the stem cells, for instance, greatly impacts the price. If the stem cells come from bone marrow concentrate, the price is generally lower than when they come from mesenchymal stem cells.

Another factor that greatly impacts the price is the treatment schema. A lot of clinics offer single injections, which are lower in price but far less effective than treatments that require multiple applications.

Finally, it can be said that the price is oftentimes dictated by the regulations and safety measures of the clinic. In countries that are strictly regulated, the prices are generally higher, because the clinic has to ensure certain quality standards of the product. This is why stem cells treatments in Asian countries like Thailand or India, or Middle and South American Counties like Mexico, are generally cheaper than in European Countries, where product safety is a very important aspect of the treatment.

In the US, a typical price for a single stem cell injection can vary between 2.000 to 12.000 USD

ANOVA is a German Stem Cell Clinic that focuses on the patient’s individual needs and wishes. We offer a variety of stem cell products and can thus personalize your treatment. If you wish to receive a cost estimate for stem cell treatment for ED, please get in touch with us. Our patient care managers can provide you with information and can arrange a consultation with our doctors.

References and Literature - Can stem cell therapy cure erectile dysfunction? (Click for more)

1. Chung, Eric. "Stem cell therapy in diabetic men with erectile dysfunction: A step closer to safe and effective regenerative technology." Annals of translational medicine 7.Suppl 1 (2019).

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