In fact, the novel therapy might work as well for related disorders like overactive bladder, irritable bowel syndrome and asthma, said researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"In the small pilot study, this new therapy was well tolerated and safe," said George Christ, senior researcher and professor at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. "It provides evidence that gene transfer is a viable approach to treating ED and other diseases involving smooth muscle cells."
The gene transfer method -- tested on 11 ED patients -- involves using small pieces of DNA inserted into the nuclei of cells, causing them to increase production of particular proteins.
The proteins in turn help relax smooth muscle cells, which allows the penis to fill with blood and become erect.
This same type of muscle tissue is also found in the bladder, which is why the researchers think the therapy would also work for overactive bladder.
The results of the study were reported online Thursday in Human Gene Therapy.