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Bionic Penis Could Treat Erectile Dysfunction

Bionic Penis Treat Erectile Dysfunction
Bionic Penis to Treat Erectile Dysfunction. Credit: Edward Jenner / Pexels / Public Domain

Scientists have developed bionic penis augments to potentially treat erectile dysfunction in the future. If also successful in humans, it might lead to innovative therapies for this medical issue.

For the particular study, scientists focused on the tunica albuginea, a layered, protective tissue within the penis that lines the urethra and plays a critical role in maintaining an erection.

A team led by biomedical specialists from South China University of Technology (SCUT) successfully replicated this tissue using hydrogel to repair injured penile tissues in Bama miniature pigs specifically.

Erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction, the inability to get or keep an erection, affects millions of men worldwide. Some of these issues, such as Peyronie’s disease, can be traced back to damage to the tunica albuginea, a highly elastic and double-layered tissue that helps in the transition from soft to hard when an erection is achieved.

Scientists have attempted to heal the tunica albuginea by transplanting biological material, but the host immune system occasionally rejects these natural patches. The SCUT team solved this issue by creating a hydrogel-based artificial patch with intricately carved patterns that look like the real thing.

Artificial Tunica Albuginea (ATA)

The materials science journal, Matter, released a report on Wednesday in which researchers described the creation of a “delicate structure” that “is biocompatible and has a favorable effect on pig tunica albuginea injuries.” They used detachable pig penises, rat skin, and fresh rabbit blood.

“Inspired by the delicate strain-adaptive structure of natural tunica albuginea, we propose an artificial tunica albuginea (ATA) composed of a strain-stiffening hydrogel consisting of aligned yet crimped fibers,” the researchers said in the study.

“ATA possesses several key mechanical features of natural tunica albuginea,” they added. “Furthermore, ATA displays the capability to repair injuries and restore the normal erectile function of the TA-damaged penile tissue in a pig model. Our study demonstrates that ATA has great promise for penile injury repair.”

Effectiveness of ATA in pigs

After receiving these patches, pigs often regained their ability to achieve good erections. Damage to the tunica albuginea can cause painful erections and a bent penis, these findings suggest a potentially innovative form of therapy for this condition.

Further study is needed, however, to determine how well the artificial patch would function in people. Even though the “Bama miniature pig has no obvious penile spine and a penile size that is similar to that in humans,” the authors of the research highlight that there are still substantial discrepancies between the organs of the two species that will need to be explored.

Meanwhile, the artificial transplant’s early success in pigs might motivate a variety of related applications, including wearable devices, implanted sensors, and other biomedical technology.

“The strategy for constructing ATA could be extended to biomimetic constructs of various materials and other load-bearing tissues, such as blood vessels, intestine, cornea, bladder, tendons, and myocardium,” the team concluded. “The mammalian penis is controlled by blood flow for a rapid soft-hard transition, and this bionic ATA might inspire the development of fluid-driven soft robots.”

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