Can Stem Cells Actually Cure Erectile
Dysfunction?  --- Not So Fast
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March 25, 2017
By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Recent news that scientists from Denmark have used stem cells to
actually cure erectile dysfunction has raised the hopes of millions of
men around the world. But is it true? What type of men will benefit
from stem cell injections? How does the procedure work? Are there any
side effects to having stem cell injections to cure erectile dysfunction?  
Is it safe?

The study at the center of the news was carried out by a team of
scientists from Odense University Hospital in Denmark and presented on
March 22, 2017 at the European Association of Urology's conference in

The study enlisted 21 men who had undergone prostatectomy
following a diagnosis of prostate cancer. As a result of the surgery,
some of the men were incontinent.

The procedure involved putting the men under general anesthesia and
removing fat cells from their abdomen through a liposuction
procedure.  The stem cells were then isolated from the fat cells and
injected into the corpus cavernosum of the penis. The corpus
cavernosum  is the spongy expandable structure that enables the penis
to achieve an erection.

The procedure takes a few hours and the men were discharged from
the hospital the same day.

Success in this type of procedure is measured using a International
Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) questionnaire.  This questionnaire
asks  participants to grade their erectile performance on a sliding scale.

The IIEF-5 score is the sum of the responses to the following 5 items:

22-25: No erectile dysfunction

17-21: Mild erectile dysfunction

12-16: Mild to moderate erectile dysfunction

8-11: Moderate erectile dysfunction

5-7: Severe erectile dysfunction

Six months after the procedure, all of the men reported improvements
in their erectile performance, showing an average improvement in their
IIEF scores from 6, which means severe erectile dysfunction,  to 12,
meaning mild to moderate erectile dysfunction.

But 8 of the men did much better. These men reported that they had
been able to have intercourse without using Viagra or other
enhancements.  These men reported an erectile performance number of

What was the difference? Why did some men recover the ability to
produce erections while others did not.  

One key difference is whether the men were incontinent before the
stem cell injections.  None of the men who were incontinent before the
procedure were able to achieve an erection after the procedure.

Why Do Stem Cells Work to Restore Erections Even When Viagra Fails?

Stem cells are able to become different kinds of cells. They are
chameleons, shape-shifters, blank slates, and therefore extremely
important in medical research.  Stems cells are found in embryonic
material such as in umbilical cords or in adult cells.

All cells, before they become a "heart cell" or a "bladder cell" or a
"penis cell", start out in life as a blank slate, a stem cell.

Because they have this unique ability to become different kinds of cells,
stem cells, when injected in certain places in your body, adapt to repair
and replace damaged cells.

Scientists in the  future may be able to sue stem cells to treat diabetes
and heart disease, according to the
National Institutes of Health.

The Side Effects of the Stem Cell Procedure

A previous study, by the same team led by Dr. Martha Haar of Odense
University Hospital, performed stem cell injection experiments on 17
men in 2016. The men were injected with between 8.4–37.2 million
stem cells.

All of the men had undergone prostate surgery and had erectile
dysfunction. This is quite common, as about 17% of all men will receive
a diagnosis of prostate cancer in their lifetimes and 25% of these men
will have prostate surgery.

A third (33%) of men in their forties have erectile dysfunction and over
fifty percent (50%) of men over 60 have ED, the study noted.

Treating erectile dysfunction often causes more problems. Surgical
implants can cause scarring and medications used to treat ED can cause
side effects.  For these reasons, perfecting the use of stem cells to
repair erectile dysfunction is a significant breakthrough.

However, there are side effects.

The men who underwent the procedure reported the following side

1. Pain, Swelling and Redness in the Area That Was injected.  This side
effects were experienced by two men and the symptoms subsided soon
after treatment.

2. Hematoma in the Penis and Scrotum.  This side effect was
experienced by one man and lasted for 14 days. This man had been
taking NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs) before the experiment.

3. Abdominal Pain and Tenderness. Two men experienced abdominal
pain and tenderness which lasted between 2 and 6 days.

Is this Study Reliable?

The study had several design flaws.  First, the study was not a double-
blind study with a control group. This study had no control group and
participants were well aware of the expected result, which of course
could have influenced the reporting of improvements.

Second, there was no independent verification of the achievement of an
erection, probably for privacy reasons. As the scientists cautioned,"We
cannot discern if the positive effect is a result of the urologist
interviews or the patient's own expectations to stem cell therapy or if in
fact the stem cells themselves by differentiation have helped regenerate
the erectile function."

Nonetheless, hats off the  team from Denmark. These experiments may
prove to be the turning point in discovering a permanent cure to
erectile dysfunction

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