Monday, October 15, 2018

New Genetic Link to Erectile Dysfunction


     For the first time, scientists have linked erectile dysfunction to genetics. As most of us know, erectile dysfunction is the inability to maintain an erection for men, and usually becomes more common as men age. Other health factors can also contribute to erectile dysfunction such as weight, tobacco use, and drug/alcohol use. It has been hard to produce effective treatments for erectile dysfunction due to the diversity and uniqueness of each case. There are current medications for erectile dysfunction, most are oral pills that increase blood flow and the increased blood flow helps erections. However, most of these medications have had limited success and effectiveness varies greatly from case to case.

     Previously, scientists have suspected that genetics play a role in erectile dysfunction but have failed to find a direct gene location as a cause until recently. For the first time, in a large study involving over 200,000 men that reported having erectile dysfunction, scientists have found a gene near the SIM1 gene that shows significant linkage to erectile dysfunction. They found that variations at this locus showed over a 25% increased risk in developing erectile dysfunction. The team was also able to understand how the SIM1 gene interaction works. They know that the SIM1 gene is a part of a signal pathway that contributes to sexual function and body weight and that the erectile dysfunction locus is in very close proximity to the SIM1 gene. The team found that variations at the erectile dysfunction locus affected the enhancer of the SIM1 gene, interacting with the promoter for the gene. Therefore, it is likely that the erectile dysfunction locus affects the expression of the SIM1 gene, which affects developing erectile dysfunction.

     This discovery seems like a big accomplishment in genetics and for doctors that deal with this field. Having linked a single gene to erectile dysfunction is promising because then scientists can start researching genetic therapies to cure this. Now that a genetic cause has been identified, hopefully, if genetic treatments are used the rate of success increases. It will be interesting to see the future research in this area, and if they are able to design types of genetic therapies, as well as if they are able to possibly find other genes linked to erectile dysfunction.

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