Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation
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Role of androgens in modulating male and female sexual function
1Department of Urology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
2Department of Biochemistry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
Citation Information: Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation. Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 521–528, ISSN (Online) 1868-1891, ISSN (Print) 1868-1883, DOI: 10.1515/HMBCI.2010.052, January 2011
- Published Online:
Advancement in basic and clinical research has provided considerable evidence suggesting a key role of androgens in the physiology and pathophysiology of sexual function. Evidence from clinical studies in men and women with androgen deficiency support a role of androgens in maintaining sexual function in men and women and are integral in maintaining sexual health. Preclinical studies utilizing male animal models demonstrated a role of androgens in maintenance of: (i) penile tissue structural integrity, (ii) penile trabecular smooth muscle growth and function, (iii) integrity of penile nerve fiber network, (iv) signaling pathways in the corpora cavernosa, (v) myogenic and adipogenic differentiation in the corpora cavernosa, (vi) physiological penile response to stimuli, and (vii) facilitating corporeal hemodynamics. These findings strongly suggest a role for androgen in the physiology of penile erection. In addition, clinical studies in hypogonadal men with erectile dysfunction treated with testosterone provided invaluable information on restoring erectile function and improving ejaculatory function. Similarly, clinical studies in surgically or naturally postmenopausal women with androgen deficiency suggested that androgens are important for maintaining sexual desire and testosterone treatment was shown to improve sexual desire, arousal and orgasm. Furthermore, studies in female animal models demonstrated that androgens maintain the integrity of vaginal nerve fiber network, muscularis volume, and enhance genital blood flow and mucification. Based on the biochemical, physiological and clinical findings from human and animal studies, we suggest that androgens are integral for maintaining sexual function and play a critical role in maintaining sexual health in men and women.