Gene Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction?

Dec. 1, 2006 — -- GENE THERAPY FOR ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION? In a preliminary test of what researchers hope could turn out to be a lasting treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED), doctors from Wake Forest University used a form of gene therapy to improve muscle tissue in 11 men with the disorder. The gene therapy is not full gene therapy involving changes in the men's DNA, but rather a method using small amounts of DNA to encourage the men's cells to produce more of a particular kind of protein. These proteins help relax the smooth muscle, allowing the penis to fill with blood and become erect. In the study, improvements in ED lasted through all six months, suggesting that it could one day be an alternative treatment to short-term fixes such as Viagra and Cialis. These results were published in the most recent issue of Human Gene Therapy.

"ABORTION PILL" STOPS BREAST CANCER TUMORS? A new mouse study published in Science suggests that the chemical in the "abortion pill" may help prevent breast cancer tumors in high-risk patients. The chemical, mifepristone, works by inhibiting a hormone that may contribute to breast cancer development. In mice engineered to have the breast cancer gene BRCA1, the animals treated with mifepristone did not develop breast tumors by age 1. In contrast, the untreated animals all developed tumors by eight months. This research is in its early stages, but scientists from the University of California at Irvine hope that one day women at risk could take mifepristone instead of having their ovaries or breasts removed to prevent tumors.

CONTRACEPTION RESPONSIBLE FOR LOW TEEN PREGNANCIES The teen pregnancy rate has declined remarkably since 1990, and a new study from the Guttmacher Institute finds the reduction is largely the result of more contraception use, not increased abstinence. Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the study examined sexual behavior and contraceptive use among young women between the ages of 15 and 19 and found that 86 percent of decline in pregnancy risk was linked to improved use of contraception. However, reduced sexual activity explained just 14 percent of the decline in teen pregnancy. The researchers also found that among younger teens, between ages 15 to 17, 77 percent of pregnancy decline was attributed to improved contraceptive use and 23 percent to reduced sexual activity.

STAT is a brief look at the latest medical research and is compiled by Joanna Schaffhausen, who holds a doctorate in behavioral neuroscience. She works in the ABC News Medical Unit, evaluating medical studies, abstracts and news releases.