Effect of PDE5 inhibition combined with free oxygen radical scavenger therapy on erectile function in a diabetic animal model

L De Young, D Yu, D Freeman, G B Brock
International Journal of Impotence Research 2003, 15 (5): 347-54
Phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors represent an important advance in the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED). In spite of widespread use and generally good efficacy, as a class they remain ineffective in 15-57% of men. Specific cohorts of patients with severe vascular or neurogenic basis to their ED, such as diabetic men or those who have undergone radical pelvic surgery, demonstrate lower response rates with PDE inhibition treatment. We believe that circulating levels of nitric oxide (NO) may be enhanced through delivery of adequate concentrations of free oxygen radical scavenger molecules such as vitamin E. Higher levels of NO, theoretically, should produce increased penile blood flow with the potential for a synergistic effect when combined with a PDE5 inhibitor. With this hypothesis in mind, 20 adult male Sprague-Dawley streptozotocin-induced (60 mg/kg i.p.) diabetic rats were divided into four therapeutic groups (n=5). Group I--control animals received peanut oil, group II--vitamin E 20 IU/day, group III--sildenafil 5 mg/kg/day and group IV--vitamin E 20 IU/day plus sildenafil 5 mg/kg/day, by oral gavage daily for 3 weeks. Erectile function was assessed as a rise in intracavernous pressure following cavernous nerve electrostimulation. Penile tissue was harvested to determine the changes in tissue morphology including neuronal nitric oxide synthase, smooth muscle alpha-actin and endothelial cell integrity. PDE5 protein content and activity were measured. Significant increases in intracavernous pressure were measured in the animals receiving combined vitamin E plus sildenafil treatment. Immunohistochemical staining showed increases of neuronal nitric oxide synthase, endothelial cell and smooth muscle cell staining. Western blot analysis did not show significant differences of PDE5 protein between the groups. However, higher PDE5 activity was measured in the sildenafil group and lower activity of PDE5 was recorded in the cohort receiving vitamin E with sildenafil. Vitamin E enhanced the therapeutic effect of the PDE5 inhibitor in a meaningful way in this animal model of diabetes. This study indicates a potential means of salvaging erectile function among patients who are refractory to sildenafil.

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