Scientists in China have partially reversed erectile dysfunction in pigs using synthetic tissue that repairs wounds, an advance that could lead to better ways to treat penile injuries in humans.
In mammals, the tunica albuginea (TA) tissue in the penis is characterized by a bilayer structure composed of collagen protein fibers that flatten and stretch during erection to mediate the transition from soft to hard.
Previous studies show that about half of men aged 40 to 70 years experience some form of erectile dysfunction, and an estimated 5 percent suffer from a condition in which scar tissue forms in the TA tissue that causes pain and a host of other effects.
The artificial tunica albuginea (ATA), described in the new study published Wednesday in the journal Matter, mimics the natural sheath of fibrous tissue needed to maintain an erection.
“We realized that this is an area that has received little attention, but the need for it is enormous,” said study co-author Xuetao Shi, from the South China University of Technology, in a statement.
“We anticipated the problems and consequences of the ATA making process to a large extent, but we were still surprised by the results in animal experiments that the penis regained a normal erection immediately after ATA use,” said Dr Shi.
The scientists tested ATA, made of polyvinyl alcohol, which has a convoluted fiber structure and biomechanical properties similar to natural tissue, in TAs of injured Bama miniature pigs.
They analyzed the toxicity and blood compatibility of the artificial tissue, as it is designed to stay in the body for a long time.
Researchers have found that patches made from artificial tissue can restore erectile function in pigs.
Erectile function in pigs was restored in a similar way to normal penile tissue, suggesting that the patch can successfully alter the function of natural tissues.
When the effect of the ATA patches was analyzed one month later, they found that after injecting saline into the penis, he achieved a normal erection.
They also found that although the artificial tissue did not restore the microstructure of the surrounding natural tissue, it did develop a scar similar to that of normal tissue.
“Results one month after the procedure showed that the ATA group achieved good, if not excellent, repair results,” said Dr Shi.
In further studies, scientists hope to take a holistic view of the repair of general penile defect or the construction of a dildo.
“ATA demonstrates the ability to repair injuries and restore normal erectile function of TA-damaged penile tissue in a pig model. Our study shows that ATA holds great promise for penile injury repair,” the researchers wrote in the study.