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Injection to brighten up a man’s love life

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A stem cell injection could be a new way to tackle impotence or erectile dysfunction, which affects up to half of men aged 40 and older.

In two new studies, men who received the injections directly into the penis experienced an improvement in their sexual function.

The theory is that the stem cells — which have the ability to turn into different cells — will replace damaged cells and restore normal blood flow to the area. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the persistent inability to get or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse.

Normally, the blood vessels of the corpora cavernosa — erectile tissue that run the length of the penis — open during arousal, allowing blood to flow in. Pressure traps the blood and maintains the erection. However, in men with ED, the blood vessels in the area are narrowed, usually due to aging or the build-up of fatty deposits.

In two new studies, men who received the injections directly into the penis experienced an improvement in their sexual function

ED can also result from general nerve damage after prostate surgery. Stress and other psychological and social factors may also play a role.

Treatment options include medication such as sildenafil (Viagra) that improves blood flow by widening blood vessels.

But these don’t work in about 40 percent of cases — and in people with nerve damage caused by surgery or diabetes (caused here by poor blood supply), only one in three benefits.

Now scientists believe that stem cells may offer an alternative.

The cells, commonly found in bone marrow or embryonic tissue, are the building blocks of all human tissue. They can develop into specialized cells, such as those needed to form blood vessels, skin, heart, and bones. They are increasingly being used to repair diseased or damaged tissue.

In one of two new studies, 22 men with ED and diabetes received two injections of stem cells (taken from donated umbilical cords) into the base of the penis. Results reported in the journal Urology International showed significant improvements in erections within days. The effects lasted for up to a year and there were no side effects.

The cells, commonly found in bone marrow or embryonic tissue, are the building blocks of all human tissue.  They can develop into specialized cells, such as those needed to form blood vessels, skin, heart and bones

The cells, commonly found in bone marrow or embryonic tissue, are the building blocks of all human tissue. They can develop into specialized cells, such as those needed to form blood vessels, skin, heart and bones

In a second study, researchers took stem cells from the bone marrow of ten men with ED due to diabetes or surgical nerve damage. The samples were processed and injected into the corpus cavernosum.

Results of the study, reported in the journal Cytotherapy, showed that the injections improved erectile function in up to 40 percent of men, with nearly all men saying it improved their sexual activity.

How exactly stem cells might work is unclear. One theory is that they form new blood cells and muscle tissue that stimulate erections; another is that they lead to increased levels of collagen, which helps strengthen penile tissue.

Professor Raj Persad, a consultant urological surgeon with North Bristol NHS Trust, said of the study: ‘The results are very encouraging indeed, but it must be emphasized that this is still early. More research will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms involved.’

Shockwaves may provide long-lasting benefits for men with erectile dysfunction, according to a study in the journal Sexual Medicine.

Symptoms continued to subside for five years after treatment, with penile tissue being treated with low-intensity shock waves, usually in 15-minute sessions, twice a week for up to a month.

The researchers at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Australia, believe the pulses cause improved blood flow and tissue changes in the penis.

Instruments of the trade

The history behind the instruments used by doctors. This week: Cannula

A cannula is a thin, flexible tube, usually made of plastic, that is used to drain fluid from the body or to deliver medication or oxygen.

The creation of this now ubiquitous piece of medical equipment is credited to the architect Sir Christopher Wren, who in 1657 documented the first successful use of such a device – the original was made from a pig’s bladder and a quill pen – in a letter to an acquaintance.

But some modern journals note the use of similar devices from even earlier, with scientists at the University of Rome suggesting they may have been in use for tracheostomies, in which a tube is inserted into the throat to aid in breathing, from the Middle Ages.

Today, the device is usually inserted into a vein or artery. Some cannulas can be attached nasally for the delivery of oxygen.

Did you know?

According to a study from North Carolina State University in the US, avoiding late-night snacks can help you perform better at work. Researchers found that those who ate unhealthy foods late at night were more likely to feel unwell in the morning with headaches and stomachaches. It was also found to affect their work performance.

Gut feeling

The bacteria in your gut may be related to more than you think. This week: Covid-19

Gut bacteria are known to play a role in how well our immune systems work and could explain how badly Covid-19 affects us, according to research in the journal Gut.

The study of 41 patients found that those with severe Covid-19 had lower levels of the anti-inflammatory ‘good’ bacteria F.prausnitzii and higher levels of ‘bad’ bacteria such as R.gnavus and R.torques that are linked to inflammation.

Although the study was small, another study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School also found a link between the makeup of our gut bacteria and the severity of Covid-19. Daniel M. Davis, professor of immunology at the University of Manchester, said: ‘It is possible that these changes could contribute to the symptoms of long-term Covid.’

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