Estimates range from 15 million to 30 million men in the US alone, who suffer from erectile dysfunction depending on how this condition is defined. What is clear is that the number of men seeking advice or therapy from their physician has increased rapidly over the last decade although this can perhaps be attributed to a better understanding and availability of treatments. While the treatment of erectile dysfunction has been markedly improved with the introduction of a new class of drugs known as the phosphodiesterase inhibitors, an estimated one in three men do not have a satisfactory response to the drug (drug-resistant erectile dysfunction, or DRED).
Blood is pooled in the corpus cavernosum, a sponge-like region along the length of the penis containing irregular blood filled spaces. During erection, the corpus cavernosum becomes engorged with blood from supplying arteries, and expand to hold up to 90% of the blood involved in an erection. The involvement of nitric oxide in the process of penile erection and relaxation has long been studied and several drugs including Sildenafil (Viagra®) act by releasing nitric oxide in the corpus cavernosum resulting in smooth muscle relaxation and vasodilation, increasing blood flow to the penis and aiding in erection.
By investigating the mechanisms by which ions enter and leave the corpus cavernosum, and the intracellular machinery that is engaged following activation or inhibition of ion channels, we are able to understand the role that various drug therapies are having in sexual dysfunction. ICBC are interested in developing next generation drugs for the treatment of sexual dysfunction with the goal of targeting patients that show symptoms of DRED.