The study, conducted in rats, compares the effectiveness of using a byproduct of liposuction — uncultured stromal vascular fraction with adipose-derived stem cells cultured in the lab to treat ED caused by injury to the cavernous nerve
A new study appearing in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine has moved science one step closer to finding a simple treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) after prostate cancer surgery, eschewing the usual pharmaceutical drug route with potential for harmful side effects, in favour of stem cell therapy that can help the body regenerate.
The study, conducted in rats, compares the effectiveness of using a byproduct of liposuction — uncultured stromal vascular fraction (SVF) — with adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) cultured in the lab to treat ED caused by injury to the cavernous nerve (CN). This nerve, which facilities erection, is sometimes injured during a radical prostatectomy to treat prostate cancer.
ADSCs are harvested from fat and are an attractive source of stem cells for several reasons: They are abundant and can be easily obtained using minimally invasive liposuction. Also, they have characteristics similar to bone marrow-derived stem cells in terms of self-renewal and multipotency. Furthermore, ADSCs retain their ability to divide and grow longer than bone marrow-derived stem cells, which may be beneficial in treating chronic conditions.
On the other hand, cultured ADSCs have limitations, including the cost and time of culturing them, the potential for contamination, changes in cell characteristics during culturing procedures, and their tendency to sometimes form tumors. To avoid these risks, uncultured SVF has emerged as an easier and safer way to use stem and progenitor cells (which are further along in the differentiation process) derived from adipose tissue. SVF comes from the disposable byproduct of liposuction.
However, no study had yet reported side-by-side comparisons of uncultured SVF and cultured ADSCs in treating ED. That was the objective of this study, led by Dalsan You, and Choung-Soo Kim, and their colleagues at the Asan Medical Center and University of Ulsan College of Medicine in Seoul, Korea. They tested the cells using 40 rats with and without injured CNs. One group of animals was injected with cultured ADSCs; one received uncultured SVF, and a control group received no stem cells. Four weeks later, both sources of stem cells had significantly improved the animals’ erection function over the control group. Also, both stem cell types significantly increased the number of nNOS-positive nerve fibers, suggesting that they stimulated nerve regeneration.
“However,” Dr Kim said, “The cells coming from uncultured SVF outperformed the cultured ADSCs in terms of smooth muscle/collagen ratio and endothelial cell content in the blood vessels, which are also important factors in repairing ED.”
“Further research is now ongoing to determine the optimal protocol for cellular therapy of ED following CN injury,” Dr You added. “We want to follow the progress of the animals over the long term and also we want to see what happens with multiple stem cell injections, rather than just the one given in this study.”
“This first study to compare two types of cells derived from fat tissue in a rat model of erectile dysfunction after prostate cancer surgery is an important step in identifying effective new treatments for this condition,” said Anthony Atala, Editor-in-Chief of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
EP News Bureau – Mumbai