Shining a red light on a man’s genitals for 60 seconds could help solve erectile dysfunction, study suggests
- The compound, known as NORD-1, reacts to the light by releasing nitric oxide
- It boosts the blood flow to the penis and therefore could improve erections
Shining a red light on to the genitals for just 60 seconds could boost a man’s libido.
The treatment involves beaming the light from a special torch through the skin of the penis after a compound is injected into the area.
The compound, known as NORD-1, reacts to the light by releasing nitric oxide, a gas that helps blood vessels to dilate — boosting blood flow to the penis and improving erections.
A new study shows the technique is effective in animals — and the Japanese scientists behind it believe it could work just as well in men who fail to respond to drug treatments. They hope to begin human trials in the next couple of years.
An estimated one in ten men experiences erectile dysfunction at some point. Causes range from diabetes and hormonal problems to stress and depression.
Shining a red light on to the genitals for just 60 seconds could boost a man’s libido
An estimated one in ten men experiences erectile dysfunction at some point. Causes range from diabetes and hormonal problems to stress and depression
Medications — such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra — help some men by dilating the tiny blood vessels in the pelvic area, allowing more blood to reach the penis. But around a third of men who take these pills experience no improvement.
In these cases, the only other options are to inject drugs straight into the penis — which can be painful and difficult to self-administer — or use a pump that manually increases blood supply to the organ.
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Red light therapy could potentially be another option, according to the results of a study published recently in the World Journal of Men’s Health.
In tests it involved injecting the compound NORD-1, a synthetic chemical that only releases nitric oxide (through a chemical reaction) when it is exposed to red light, into the genitals of rats with erectile dysfunction.
Simply injecting nitric oxide itself into the body to dilate blood vessels is not a solution as it can cause unwanted side-effects, such as low blood pressure.
But this way, nitric oxide is released only when the light is shone on to genitals, making it safer. (And unlike other injection treatments for erectile dysfunction, this would be given now and then, rather than every time a man had sex.)
Researchers at Nagoya City University in Japan monitored changes in rodents after injecting NORD-1 into the penis and flashing red light for just 60 seconds.
After four weeks, the results showed a significant improvement in the frequency and duration of erections after red light therapy.
Tests also showed erections improved even after nerve damage similar to that seen in men who undergo surgical removal of the prostate due to cancer.
Researchers said this raises hopes that men whose sex lives have been affected by prostate cancer surgery could, in future, revive their libidos using red light therapy. Professor Paul Chazot, a scientist at Durham University, who is researching the red light therapy in dementia (to improve blood flow to the brain), said: ‘Nitric oxide release can be beneficial in several clinical situations — including erectile dysfunction. So this could potentially be useful. But these findings are in rats and may not extrapolate well to humans.’
- Red light may boost fertility in men with poor sperm motility, where sperm don’t swim properly towards the egg. Scientists at Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University in Turkey exposed semen from 20 men with low sperm motility to bursts of red light for 30 to 60 minutes. The results showed sperm motility significantly increased — the treatment is thought to work by super-charging the mitochondria, the battery packs inside all cells, including sperm, to make them function properly.