Scientists have made a major discovery that can potentially advance the prevention and treatment of erectile dysfunction in older men.

A new study has identified the human genome that might have a link to this common condition. Scientists hope that this could lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms that cause erectile dysfunction.

The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has published the complete study.

Genetics Of Erectile Dysfunction

Previous studies chalk up about one-third of erectile dysfunction to genetics. However, the specific gene that is causing the condition especially in older men has remained a mystery due to many factors such as small sample size and weak phenotyping.

Now, researchers have made a tremendous progress. They have pinned down several variants in one genetic region that might be causing the condition.

In a study involved about 36,000 men of different ethnicities from the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Genetic Epidemiology Research in Adult Health and Aging cohort and more than 222,000 men from the UK Biobank. From the data, researchers identified SIM1 as the gene associated with erectile dysfunction. SIM1 is responsible for the regulation of a person's body weight and brain development. 

"This study points to a new research direction for erectile dysfunction that could help us identify other key genetic variants that trigger the disease and lead to investigations to better understand the precise mechanisms by which they operate," said Hunter Wessells, one of the study's principal investigators.

The researchers also found that the effect of the gene is independent of other risk factors such as BMI, smoking, and other diseases. Men ages 50 to 59 are most affected by the gene.

Significance Of The Study

As much as 40 percent of men ages 40 and above are suffering from erectile dysfunction. Although the condition is more prevalent in older men, men below the age of 40 might also experience erectile dysfunction.

"Hopefully, this will translate into better treatments and, importantly, prevention approaches for the men and their partners who often suffer silently with this condition," added Wessells.

Other causes of erectile dysfunction include high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney diseases, and, sometimes, prostate cancer. It could be due to stress, depression, anxiety, and other psychological reasons.

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