Erectile dysfunction treatments like Viagra may help desire to flare, but these oral medications are not without side effects. New research suggests that a nanoparticle-based topical therapy could bring all of the pleasure with none of the adverse repercussions.
By injecting the same erectile dysfunction drugs found in oral treatments into nanoparticles, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx say they have found a way to bypass the side effects of oral medication for erectile dysfunction, or ED, according to a paper published last month in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Erectile dysfunction, the inability to achieve or maintain an erection, affects between 15 and 30 million men in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.
A nanoparticle delivery system allows researchers to mix and match drugs that target one area of the body — in this case, the blood vessels of the penis. This contrasts with oral pills, which ferry medications around the body unnecessarily and pose a risk to some patients, such as those with heart or kidney problems.
“This is the most promising method for topical therapy,” says lead author Kelvin P. Davies, a urologist at Einstein, who says there are no viable topical treatments for ED currently on the market.
Tiny carriers can shuttle ED drugs through the skin and deliver them to the blood vessels, which makes topical treatment safe for patients, such as those with diabetes, who cannot take oral ED medication. Studies involving nanoparticle drug delivery are only beginning, but this method shows decided advantages over oral treatments.
With the new research, Davies says that scientists can fill the nanoparticles — microscopic, hollow silicon balls smaller than grains of pollen — with varying amounts of nitric oxide and oral ED medications such as Cialis to find a treatment that is most effective. Researchers are set to begin safety and dosing trials, in which medication concentration is tested, in rats in the next few months and hope to reach human clinical trials within a few years.
Though project researchers believe that nanoparticle studies will be a breakthrough in ED therapy, Jason Greenfield, a urologist at Columbia Medical Center who specializes in ED, is unconvinced. He points out that research is still in its early stages since human clinical trials haven’t yet begun.
“A lot of people are going to want to try [topical treatment], but my hunch is that it won’t take over,” says Greenfield, noting that nanoparticle therapy may be years in the making. “Whatever’s going on in ED [research] will be much different by that point.”
Still, Greenfield says, if this treatment reduces common side effects such as headache and nausea, it would accomplish a major goal in ED treatment research.