Men struggling to cope with painful erections have been offered hope in the form of a novel therapy.
A research team from United States and China suggests adenosine deaminase enzyme therapy could successfully prevent or treat penile fibrosis in men with priapism.
Penile fibrosis is a condition associated with the build up of scar tissue and eventual impotency.
"Coping with priapism is hard enough, but knowing that it can ultimately lead to fibrosis within the penis adds insult to injury," said Dr Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, where the study is published.
"Hopefully this discovery can yield new drugs that relieve the excitatory signals sent by adenosine so that these men to get some relief," Weissmann added.
During the study researchers used two priapism animal models to determine the role of increased adenosine in penile fibrosis.
One model was that of adenosine deaminase-deficient mice and the other was sickle cell disease transgenic mice. Both of these sets of mutant mice were treated with the enzyme adenosine deaminase enzymes to lower adenosine levels.
After 8 weeks, they found that this enzyme significantly lowered adenosine levels in the penises of both groups of test mice.
Reduction of adenosine by these enzymes successfully prevented and corrected penile fibrosis in both sets of mice.
"Because of our study, we have revealed that increased adenosine signaling contributes to the pathogenesis of the progression of priapism to penile fibrosis," said Yang Xia, a scientist involved in the study from the University of Texas-Houston Medical School's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
"This finding led to a novel therapeutic possibility to treat and prevent this dangerous complication seen in priapic humans by targeting on this signaling pathway in the near future," Xi added.