What is Gene Therapy for Impotence?

Various remedies are being tested for erectile dysfunction in men and one of the methods being widely talked about today is gene therapy for erectile dysfunction.

This procedure has been talked about for some time and clinical trials have been conducted in the last few years. The tests were carried out as early as 2006 and it was found that the eleven men subjected to the test suffered no adverse reactions or side effects.

What exactly is gene therapy?

Gene therapy is basically the transfer of healthy genes in order to replace faulty ones in an individual. The process and the method of using different agents to transfer the targeted genes vary. Sometimes a virus may be used and sometimes a "naked DNA" may be used. The use of a virus as a carrier of the gene is controversial since it has been known to cause various complications.

In the case of erectile dysfunction, the gene to be transferred is called the “hMaxi-K” gene. This gene is associated with blood flow in the smooth muscles of the penis. It is usually injected into the penis and the effects of the gene therapy are expected to last for as long as six months.

Early trial and testing of gene therapy for impotence

The earliest known trials for ED gene therapy were carried out at Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Professor Arnold Melman carried out these test at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. There was some success with the test and it was reported that adverse effects were not seen in any of the eleven men tested with the gene hMaxi-K.

How the hMaxi-k gene therapy works

The transfer of the hMaxi-k gene is accomplished by injecting it directly into the penis. Naked DNA is used to transfer the gene, and it produces a protein that allows blood to flow through a channel in the smooth muscles of the penis. This channel is often referred to as the Potassium channel or the K Channel as the symbol for the element potassium is K. Hence, the gene is appropriately named as the hMaxi-K gene. This therapy is sometimes called the Ion Channel therapy.

Advantages of gene therapy for erectile dysfunction

One of the biggest advantages in favor of this treatment option is that it allows for spontaneity of the sexual act. This means that one need not prepare and anticipate having sex and then use one of the ED drugs to bring on an erection. When you think about other ED drugs, you realize that those drugs have to be taken some time before sexual activity and hence it makes it almost unnatural.

Another important advantage is that you have to take other ED drugs every time you want to indulge in sexual activity. However, this is not the case with gene therapy for erectile dysfunction. The treatment lasts for six months, so just two procedures sets you up for an entire year.

For some men this could be a blessing if they have responded poorly to other ED drugs or have had major side effects with other drugs.

Disadvantages of gene therapy for erectile dysfunction

Injections in the penis can be pretty uncomfortable. For many men this could be an issue. This form of treatment is still not widely prevalent. It may be a while before it is officially approved and a bit longer before the general public accepts it. Some experts believe that it would be wiser to combine gene therapy with other ED drugs. They also believe that the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction must also be investigated and treated.

A final word

Gene therapy is finding great support in medical circles and it would not be surprising if this line of treatment is increasingly preferred in the years to come. Only time will tell if this becomes one of the popular new impotence treatments.


Learn about new options besides gene therapy for erectile dysfunction on our new ED treatment page or return to our Impotence home page.

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