Genetic link to erectile dysfunction


Lifestyle issues, such as obesity, smoking, and stress, are still factors, but this finding could lead to new genetic treatments.

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Future treatments could target specific genes as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. Getty Images

Scientists may have discovered a genetic risk factor for erectile dysfunction.

There are many causes of the disease, including obesity, smoking, and cardiovascular problems.

These are still probably the main reasons why men develop the disease.

But researchers have long believed that erectile dysfunction (ED) may also have a genetic component.

In other words, some people may be more likely to develop erectile dysfunction because of genetics rather than issues that develop later in life.

The new search has identified a specific location in the human genome that is linked to an increased risk of erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction affects about one-third of men over 70, one-fifth of men in their 60s, and one-eighth of men under 60, although some studies have suggested a much higher prevalence.

The new research may open the possibility for some patients of a future treatment that targets specific genes to reduce the inherited risk of erectile dysfunction.

Dr Irwin Goldstein said he has treated patients who have been helpless since childhood and whose fathers were also helpless.

“So genetic impotence is definitely a thing,” Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, told Healthline.

Doctors who try to treat cases of erectile dysfunction usually look for risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, heart or blood vessel problems, smoking, physical trauma to the genitals, or psychological or relationship disorders.

These findings won’t change that, Goldstein said.

Obviously, he said, genetics won’t be the only cause. “

But Goldstein nonetheless finds the new findings exciting because they give strong evidence of what he has already noticed.

“You can find people who are obese, who smoke cigarettes, who have diabetes, who eat bad food – but still have good erections, and they may not have a genetic problem,” he said. Goldstein said. “But then you might have someone who just has a small amount of diabetes but has the genetic problem and sees a problem.”

However, not all doctors are convinced that the new research proves this link.

Cleveland Clinic urologist Dr. Daniel Shoskes noted that the research was based on men who self-reported ED.

He also controlled for obesity as a non-genetic risk factor, but left out other possible factors.

“[The study] does not prove causation or to what extent ED could be genetic or acquired from nature, ”Shoskes told Healthline.

He said the bottom line for him is that, genetic risk factors or not, “if someone is overweight, severely diabetic, and a smoker, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to avoid having erectile dysfunction in one. at any given time, regardless of its genetic origin. “

Nonetheless, Shoskes called the study’s results “valid and very interesting, and a starting point for further research”, looking specifically at the genetic locations identified.

On whether this could lead to new treatments, however, he was cautious.

“[Genes] are part of very complex mechanisms, ”he said,“ and we have absolutely no idea what effect targeting these genes might have. “

Goldstein, however, sees a potential path to genetic therapies.

The ED-linked genetic location found in the new study was a location on chromosome 6 near a gene called SIM1.

This gene, the study notes, is part of the melanocortin system, which has been linked to weight regulation and sexual function.

Goldstein noted that a drug called bremelanotide, currently under study to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), may reduce sexual dysfunction in women by targeting and activating these melanocortin pathways.

Goldstein said a version of the drug was also shown to work in men, increasing sexual desire and erection stiffness by targeting the same hormone.

Genetics are not the only cause of erectile dysfunction, he warned. But, in cases where it appears to be a factor, there is some hope that future treatments like this may help.

Scientists may have discovered a genetic risk factor for erectile dysfunction.

Physiological and lifestyle issues such as obesity, smoking, or cardiovascular issues are probably still the main reasons men develop erectile dysfunction, but research seems to prove that some people may also be more likely to develop it. disease due to genetics.

Although some doctors are skeptical, others suggest that the research may open the possibility for some patients of a future treatment targeting specific genes to reduce the inherited risk of erectile dysfunction.

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