Researchers in China have used artificial tissue to restore erectile function in pigs, a promising development for repairing penile damage in humans.
“This is an area that has received little attention, but the need surrounding it is enormous,” said Xuetao Shi, author of the study published Wednesday in the science journal Matter.
An estimated 50 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 70 have some form of erectile dysfunction, the researchers said, and about five percent have Peyronie’s disease.
Peyronie’s disease, commonly caused by injury during sex, involves damage to the fibrous covering of penile tissue known as the tunica albuginea, which allows an erection to be maintained.
Scar tissue called plaque can cause curved or painful erections or shortening of the penis and may require surgical treatment. The Chinese researchers said other tissues of the body have been used to make patches to replace a damaged tunica albuginea, but these are sometimes rejected by the immune system.
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Instead, the research group created an artificial tunica albuginea (ATA) that mimics the elasticity of natural tissue using a substance called hydrogel. Hydrogels can be natural or synthetic and are used in a growing number of biomedical applications, including contact lenses and tissue engineering.
For the study, the researchers tested the artificial tissue on Bama miniature pigs with injuries to the tunica albuginea.
The ATA patches and a saline injection restored erectile function “similar to normal penile tissue,” they said. Said.
Shi, a researcher at South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, said, “Results one month after the procedure showed that the ATA group achieved good, though not perfect, repair results.” The researchers said the results were “promising for the repair of penile injuries in humans” and may be “extended to many other load-bearing tissues”.
“Our work at this stage focuses on repairing a single tissue in the penis,” Shi said. “The next stage will be to look at repairing the entire penile defect or constructing an artificial penis from a holistic perspective.” Researchers will also study techniques to repair other tissues, including the heart and bladder, Shi said.