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Can Stem Cells Cure Erectile Dysfunction?

written by Carrie Borzillo - Feb 22, 2016

Move over Viagra, there's a new erectile dysfunction solution in town. Some prominent urologists are calling the new procedure - which uses stem cells and growth factors to treat ED - "revolutionary" and a "real game changer," while patients are crediting the procedure with getting their sex lives back.

Photo Courtesy by Dr. Z
Photo Courtesy by Dr. Z
Dr. Michael Zahalsky, a Florida urologist with a dual fellowship trained at Boston University and MIT in Male Sexual Dysfunction, has conducted a study with eight erectile dysfunction patients using injections of placental derived stem cells and growth factors from amnion (the part of the membrane that encloses the embryo) to promote wound healing, blood vessel formation, and tissue repair in the corpora cavernosum. The study began in 2013 and was published in the January 2016 issue of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

"PDE5 [phosphodiesterase type 5] inhibitors, such as Viagra or Cialis, are really only a Band-Aid for the problem," explains Dr. Zahalsky. "It doesn't fix the underlying problem of what is going on, which is, the majority of times, micro-vascular disease. This can happen if you have diabetes or high blood pressure and it causes sclerosis or fibrosis of your blood vessels which is not allowing them to dilate and causing them to shrivel up. Basically, if the penis doesn't get enough blood flowing to it then you have erectile problems. What I believe these injections do, though, is actually heal, repair, and restore the blood vessels."

Photo Courtesy by Dr. Zahalsky
Photo Courtesy by Dr. Zahalsky

In the study, the eight participants underwent a series of pre- and post-measurements. "Everyone in the study had improved blood flow at six weeks," says Dr. Zahalsky, who charges $5,000 for a series of two injections. "It increased at three months and again at six months and then it leveled out at about six to twelve months with just one injection. We are doing this in a series of two injections about four to six weeks apart,"

The procedure itself takes about 15 minutes. The patient receives a penile block to numb the area and the injection goes into the base of the penis - the corpora cavernosum. Patients are recommended to abstain from sex for about three days after the injection. Only mild side-effects have been reported, including one patient having tingling in his fingers and flushing of the face after the first injection, and some mild bruising.

Since the study, Dr. Zahalsky has performed approximately 100 injections and has expanded the treatment to include the body's own growth factors through PRP (platelet rich plasma.) It was the combination of the stem cell injections and PRP that helped Al K., 43, have sex for the first time in 15 months after breaking his penis.

"Al suffered a broken penis and one urologist said he'd need a prosthesis. It was one of the worst cases I've ever seen," says Dr. Zahalsky. "We gave him an injection of amnion and PRP first, then PRP alone, and then a third injection of just amniotic fluid. After those injections, he got his first erection on his own. Is it perfect? No. But it's functioning. He's having sex whenever he wants without any medicine and he doesn't need a prosthesis."

Al's story is quite horrific. Two years ago, his girlfriend at the time bit his penis so hard that he went to the doctor the next day. "The doctor, not Dr. Z., wasn't able to see me until three weeks later and he said I had slight scar tissue inside the penis and just to take Vitamin E every day and it should clear up in six to eight months,'" explains Al K., 43.

Fourteen months go by and Al was having sex with another girl and hears a pop. "I was in excruciating pain," he continues. "I went to the emergency room and they said my penis broke. I had a fractured penis because the scar tissue from the original injury, the bite, didn't heal properly. So, the next morning I called Dr. Z and he got me in for surgery to repair the break and the leak."

The hope was that he'd be fine in a few months, but with such a severe case, Al was not only unable to get an erection at all, but he was losing penis size as well. "So we did the first stem cell injection a year ago, January 2015, and then a second one about six months later and I started to notice a little improvement. I could get about ΒΌ of an erection but the head was still floppy because of the blood flow issue. I was also starting to get some elasticity back - I would notice it would get larger when it's warm, like it's supposed to, when before it was just always small," he says.

Today, after a total of five treatments (three amniotic fluid and membrane with PRP and two of just amniotic fluid), Al is happy to report that he is able to have sex whenever he wants. "I'm finally able to have sex," he adds. "My erections are probably at 60% of what they were before the injury, but I am able to achieve an erection on my own and have insertion where before I wasn't able to. We did an ultrasound and my numbers baffled them because I was getting twice the blood flow. I finally have a little spring back in my step."

Since the original study, Dr. Zahalsky has established UroCellZ Research, a clinical research group of 20 sexual dysfunction experts from around the United States to focus on advancing research and education in the rapidly growing field of medicine and urology. "I believe that biologics need a pathway to getting used in urology," he says.

It's too soon to know if this can be an actual cure, but some doctors have seen results in treating ED using Dr. Zahalsky's methods. "It's revolutionary and a true game-changer. It's the real deal," says Dr. Brian Steixner, Medical Director of Institute for Men's Health in New Jersey, who has treated two of his own patients so far.

"I am hopeful this is actually going to cure ED to some degree and is actually not that expensive," adds Dr. Steixner. "Depending on the doctor, injections can be between $2-5,000 each, but compared to having to get a penile implant, which costs about $15,000, to fix the problem, that is nothing. This is a very exciting development."

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