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J Sex Med. 2008 Aug;5(8):1866-75.

Intracavernous growth differentiation factor-5 therapy enhances the recovery of erectile function in a rat model of cavernous nerve injury.

By: Fandel TM, Bella AJ, Lin G, Tantiwongse K, Lin CS, Pohl J, Lue TF.


Neurogenic erectile dysfunction remains a serious complication in the postprostatectomy population. Effective protective and regenerative neuromodulatory strategies are needed.


To determine the effect of growth differentiation factor-5 (GDF-5) on erectile function and its mechanism in a rat model of cavernous nerve (CN) injury.


Erectile function was assessed by CN electrostimulation at 4 weeks. Penile tissues were examined by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and immunohistochemical analyses.


Forty-eight male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into six equal groups: one group underwent sham operation (uninjured controls), while five groups underwent bilateral CN crush. Crush-injury groups were treated at the time of injury with intracavernous injection of a slow-release suspension of liquid microparticles containing no GDF-5 (vehicle), 0.4 microg (low concentration), 2 microg (intermediate concentration), or 10 microg GDF-5 (high concentration). One untreated group served as injured controls.


GDF-5 enhanced erectile recovery and significantly increased intracavernous pressure in the low and intermediate-concentration groups vs. injured controls. Low-concentration GDF-5 demonstrated the best functional preservation, as the intracavernous pressure increase in this group did not differ significantly from uninjured controls. A dose-response relationship was confirmed for the effects of GDF-5 in penile tissue. Low-concentration GDF-5 showed better preservation of the penile dorsal nerves and antiapoptotic effects in the corpus cavernosum (P < 0.05 vs. injured controls). Although high concentration GDF-5 did not confer meaningful erectile recovery, this dose was more effective at decreasing transforming growth factor-beta than low-concentration GDF-5.


Intracavernous injection of low (0.4 microg) or intermediate-concentration GDF-5 (2 microg) was effective in preserving erectile function in a rat model of neurogenic erectile dysfunction. The underlying mechanism appears to involve neuron preservation and antiapoptosis.

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