ASBMB logoApparently, ED is one of the most prevalent diabetes-induced complications in men. It seems that approximately 75 percent of men with diabetes develop certain degree of ED. While in some cases diabetics tend to develop more severe forms of ED that may not be responsive enough to standard drugs.

A study conducted by the Case Western Reserve University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has identified certain molecular changes that seem to follow the onset of diabetes-induced ED. These molecular changes can be treated as markers to identify ED risks as well as new potential drug targets.

For the study, Mark Chance and his colleagues exploited the proteomics approach. Under this approach, the scientists examined the relative abundance of proteins in the corpora, an expandable tissue along the length of the penis that fills with blood during erection, of diabetic rats. This examination was carried out over two stages of progression, one week and two months after the onset of diabetes.

The team compared these rats to healthy age-matched controls, and discovered 57 proteins in the penile tissue that either increased or decreased during diabetes. The candidate proteins gave an insight into the dynamics of ED. However, scientists were not surprised to notice the collagen proteins that provide strength and stiffness were down-regulated in diabetes, as were proteins that transport sex hormones.

On the other hand, proteins which were a part of cell death (apoptosis) were up-regulated, along with many proteins related to fat metabolism. Such changes may be attributed to the narrowing or hardening of blood vessels. The team noted that the rat model employed by them was similar to human ED in many ways.

This co-relation led to the identification of the 57 candidate proteins, and also helped in a more detailed study on the relationship between diabetes and ED in humans. Consequently it also led to identification of diagnostic and drug targets.

This study appeared in the March issue of Molecular and Cellular Proteomics.