Genetic link found to erectile dysfunction

Christopher Davidson
October 11, 2018

Therapies based on these factors exist, but many men don't respond to them.

For the first time, scientists have discovered a confirmed genetic link to erectile dysfunction. Looking at genetic profiles from 36,000 men enrolled in a study funded by healthcare company Kaiser Permanente, researchers from Kaiser were able to find what genetic variants men with erectile dysfunction had in common. According to the South China Morning Post, about a third of erectile dysfunction risk is associated with genetic factors.

In the new study, Jorgenson and his colleagues identified that the genetic variant alone accounts for 2 percent of the risk.

In a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich when it had not yet been peer reviewed, the researchers said eating a Mediterranean diet could reduce the risk of a man developing ED.

Scientists report they have uncovered the first evidence that erectile dysfunction may have genetic underpinnings.

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Researchers from health insurance and medical care company Kaiser Permanente studied the genes of almost 37,000 Americans who volunteered their medical records for the study. Now, a study published this week in PNAS found another reason some men suffer from the condition: a specific DNA variation. The investigators found gene variations in a specific spot in the human genome near the SIM1 gene that are significantly associated with an increased risk of impotence. This risk was independent of known erectile dysfunction risk factors. The association was replicated in the U.K. Biobank sample, providing strong confirmation of the findings.

Erectile dysfunction has been hard to study in part because of the differences in how patients report their symptoms.

It turned out that nearly a quarter of the risk of erectile dysfunction increases variation in the region of SIM1. Guys completed sexual health surveys, and the team looked at whether participants were diagnosed with erectile dysfunction or received treatment for the condition.

The study then identified a biological role for this location in erectile dysfunction susceptibility. The SIM1 gene helps regulate our body weight and is also involved in a pathway that produces two hormones known to stimulate erections.

Think of a gene like a light bulb, Jorgenson said: The promoter is like a light switch, and an enhancer acts like the fuse box. In this case, it is a variation near the SIM1 gene.

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