People with low libido may soon be cured of their sexual aversion by an injection, according to the findings of a new study.
One in 12 men and one in 10 women suffer from hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) which is when people are distressed by their own inability to want to have sex.
Scientists at Imperial College London gave 32 men and 32 women with HSDD a treatment of the hormone kisspeptin.
This hormone is made naturally by the human body and stimulates the release of other reproductive hormones inside the body.
Previous studies have shown that giving this hormone to people with no sexual issues can further enhance responses to sexual stimuli and boost attraction.
Sexual processing in brain improved
For the new study, the scientists gave HSDD patients either a placebo or two doses of kisspeptin, administered as two 75-minute intravenous injections a week apart.
Brain scans found kisspeptin improved sexual processing in the minds of both women and men, resulting in positive effects on sexual behaviour compared to placebo.
They say these are the first clinical studies to explore the ability of the hormone to boost the sexual parts of the brain in women and men distressed by their low sexual desire.
A 44-year-old man in the trial with the alias Peter enrolled in the trial because of previous problems with his sexual appetite and performance.
“The issue had always been detrimental to sustaining relationships. I would often make excuses as to why my sexual appetite was low,” he said.
“For example, I would blame stress at work or tiredness as a reason instead of being honest. I had tried other performance-supporting medication like Viagra.
“However, this proved ineffective as the issue was simply one of low desire. It was highly embarrassing and not something I felt able to talk to my previous partners about. I feared they would confuse it with lack of attraction to them.
“I was keen to learn whether there was a solution to my problem and learn more about my condition.”
“Peter” adds that he felt more sexual desire after his injection, which he received in June 2021, and that within a week of the treatment conceived his son.
“I had the best possible outcome as a result of the trial, which has been life-changing for me,” he said.
Unmet need to find new therapy
Dr Alexander Comninos, from the department of metabolism, digestion and reproduction at Imperial College London, said: “Low sexual desire can be distressing and so result in HSDD.
“This can have a major detrimental impact on relationships, mental health and fertility.
“Even though it is relatively common, treatment options in women are limited, carry significant side effects and in some cases can be harmful to even try. And, unfortunately, these treatments have limited effectiveness.
“In men there are currently no licensed treatments and none on the horizon.
“Therefore, there is a real unmet need to find new, safer and more effective therapies for this distressing condition for both women and men seeking treatment.
“Our two studies provide proof-of-concept for the development of kisspeptin treatments, as we provide the first evidence that kisspeptin is a potentially safe and effective therapy for both women and men with distressing low sexual desire.”
Increase in penile rigidity
According to the research, kisspeptin can also have positive effects not only in the brain but also in the penis by increasing rigidity.
The hormone was well-tolerated by both women and men with no side effects reported, something that is crucial when it comes to developing drugs.
Researchers are next planning to test the hormone in sexual problems that are psychological in origin, such as unexplained low libido.
The findings, published in Jama Network Open, indicate that kisspeptin significantly boosted brain activity in key structures of the sexual brain network while also increasing penile rigidity by up to 56 per cent.
The hormone also had greater effects in key brain regions in men more distressed with their low sexual desire.