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Nitric Oxide Microspheres

Scientists are exploring another treatment option for erectile dysfunction (ED) caused by diabetes: nitric-oxide releasing “microspheres.”

Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University studied the use of these microspheres in diabetic rats.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs when a man cannot get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. High blood sugar from diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves necessary for erection. It is estimated that 50-75% of diabetic men have ED. Many of them develop the condition 10 to 15 years before non-diabetic men.

Nitric oxide is important for erections. It helps smooth muscle tissue relax and allows more blood to flow into the penis.

Oral medications like sildenafil (Viagra) can help some men with ED, but they are not always effective. The researchers wanted to know whether nitric oxide could be used as an alternative treatment for ED.

They worked with small bead-like structures that could release nitric oxide. Similar structures have been used in the past for heart disease research.

Next, the research team chemically induced diabetes in 40 adult male rats. Another 10 rats were used as a comparison group.

The 40 rats were divided in to four groups. One group received no treatment. The second group was given sildenafil through an IV. The third had nitric-oxide microspheres injected into the penis. And the fourth group received a combination of sildenafil and nitric-oxide microspheres.

The microspheres were fluorescently treated so that the researchers could track them with imaging equipment. This would indicate whether the microspheres traveled outside the treatment area.

When the researchers tested the rats’ ability to have erections, they found better function among the rats who had been treated with microspheres and rats who had been given the combination treatment. Those who had been given sildenafil alone had modest improvement. Rats given no treatment did not fare as well.

The researchers also discovered that the nitric oxide could be effective in rats for up to three weeks.

They noted that the nitric oxide did not travel to other parts of the rats’ bodies.

While the results are encouraging, more research is needed to see whether the therapy would be effective and safe in humans.

The study was published online in June in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Print this article or view it as a PDF file here: Nitric Oxide Microspheres


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Soni, Samit D., MD, et al.

“Nitric Oxide-Releasing Polymeric Microspheres Improve Diabetes-Related Erectile Dysfunction”

(Full-text. First published online: June 10, 2013)

Medical Daily

Weller, Chris

“Nitric Oxide Beads Beat Out Viagra In Treating Erectile Dysfunction”

(October 1, 2013)

Sexual Medicine Society of North America

“Diabetes - Erectile Dysfunction”