ntroduction. Radiation therapy (RT) for prostate cancer is frequently associated with posttreatment erectile dysfunction (ED).
Aim. To investigate whether injection of adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) can ameliorate RT-associated ED.
Methods. Thirty male rats were divided into three groups. The control + phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) group received tail-vein injection of PBS. The radiation + PBS group received radiation over the prostate and tail-vein injection of PBS. The radiation + ADSC group received radiation over the prostate and tail-vein injection of ADSCs, which were labeled with 5-ethynyl-2-deoxyuridine (EdU). Seventeen weeks later, erectile function was evaluated by intracavernous pressure (ICP) in response to electrostimulation of cavernous nerves (CNs). Penile tissue and major pelvic ganglia (MPG) were examined by immunofluorescence (IF) and EdU staining.
Main Outcome Measures. Erectile function was measured by ICP. Protein expression was examined by IF, followed by image analysis and quantification.
Results. Radiation over the prostate caused a significant decrease in erectile function and in the expression of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) in penis and MPG. Cavernous smooth muscle (CSM) but not endothelial content was also reduced. Injection of ADSCs significantly restored erectile function, nNOS expression, and CSM content in the irradiated rats. EdU-positive cells were visible in MPG.
Conclusions. Radiation appears to cause ED via CN injury. ADSC injection can restore erectile function via CN regeneration.