Novel Emerging Therapies for Erectile Dysfunction

World J Mens Health. 2021 Jan;39(1):48-64. doi: 10.5534/wjmh.200007. Epub 2020 Mar 16.


Currently, several treatments exist for the improvement of erectile dysfunction (ED). These include medical therapies such as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5-Is), invasive methods such as intracavernosal injection therapy of vaso-active substances, vacuum erection devices, and penile prosthesis implants. However, the percentage of patients that are unresponsive to available treatments and who drop out from treatments remains high. Current evidence reveals that the pathogenesis of ED is related to multiple factors including underlying comorbidities, previous surgery, and psychological factors. Diverse approaches using novel molecular pathways or new technologies have been tested as potential therapeutic options for difficultto-treat ED populations. Melanocortin receptor agonist, a centrally acting agent, showed promising results by initiating erection without sexual stimulation in non-responders to PDE5-Is. Recent clinical and pre-clinical studies using human tissues suggested that new peripherally acting agents including the Max-K channel activator, guanylate cyclase activator, and nitric oxide donor could be potential therapies either as a monotherapy or in combination with PDE5-Is in ED patients. According to several clinical trials, regeneration therapy using stem cells showed favorable data in men with diabetic or post-prostatectomy ED. Low-intensity shock wave therapy also demonstrated promising results in patients with vasculogenic ED. There are growing evidences which suggest the efficacy of these emerging therapies, though most of the therapies still need to be validated by well-designed clinical trials. It is expected that, should their long-term safety and efficacy be proven, the emerging treatments can meet the needs of patients hitherto unresponsive to or unsatisfied by current therapies for ED.

Keywords: Erectile dysfunction; Extracorporeal shockwave therapy; Guanylate cyclase; Melanocortins; Nitric oxide donor; Stem cells.

Publication types

  • Review