Studies of twins have indicated that about one third of the risk of developing erectile dysfunction is associated to genetic factors. Until now, research into this topic has been limited by small sample sizes and other factors. In a new study, however, scientists report they have found at least some specific genetic causes of erectile dysfunction.
In this new study, investigators note the possibility of singling out a specific location in the genome that is associated with ED. Erectile dysfunction is a significant health concern among men and their partners, as it affects about 20 percent of men older than 20 in the United States. This percentage rises a lot once the range is limited to men in their 50s and 60s.
Looking at genetic causes of erectile dysfunction
The new study examined the genes of nearly 37,000 men who had volunteered their medical records. Investigators were able to identify a spot (locus) on the sixth chromosome (near the SIM1 gene) that is associated with an increased risk of developing erectile dysfunction. In fact, this locus was found to be associated with a 26 percent increased risk of having erectile dysfunction, even when the authors factored in other risk factors, such as excess weight.
According to Eric Jorgenson, the study’s lead author and a scientist at Kaiser Permanent Northern California’s Division of Research, “Identifying the first genetic risk factor for erectile dysfunction is an exciting discovery because it opens the door for investigations into new, genetic-based therapies.” The SIM1 gene plays a significant role in encoding proteins that help regulate a man’s erection.
Based on what researchers have found thus far, it appears researchers will continue to look for more genetic risk factors associated with ED.
That search has already been yielding some results, according to a report in a preprint journal, in which the authors say they found a relationship between ED and a gene site near SIM1.
Causes of erectile dysfunction
Researchers have identified numerous possible causes of erectile dysfunction. In some men, more than one cause may be at work. A brief review of the causes include stress/anxiety (including performance anxiety), diabetes, history of surgery in the prostate/pelvic area, low testosterone levels, psychological factors (e.g., fear of sex, history of sexual assault), use of certain medications, high alcohol intake, limited consumption of high-fiber, nutrient-rich whole foods.
Bovijn J et al. GWAS identifies novel risk locus for erectile dysfunction and implicates hypothalamic neurobiology and diabetes in etiology. bioRxiv 2018 Mar 15
Jorgenson E et al. Genetic variation in the SIM1 locus is associated with erectile dysfunction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published ahead of print 2018 Oct. 8