As we’ve often said at Wellman, it’s important to continue to have a healthy sex life as we age – so we keep a close eye on new developments in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. We found recent developments of a penile prosthesis particularly intriguing – a recent paper in the Journal of Urology  investigates how the prosthesis can help men with erectile dysfunction to get back into the game again. Though labelled a “bionic penis” in the tabloid press, it isn’t some sci-fi device for making you a machine at sex – it seems to have the potential for serious medical uses in treating erectile dysfunction.
The prosthesis, developed by urologist Dr Brian Le of the University of Wisconsin, is what’s known as a “memory metal” or shape memory alloy (SMA) – flexible at body temperature, when heated up it “remembers” a previous shape and takes it on. In this case, the penile scaffold grows from a floppy and apparently quite flexible little thing to a rigid and respectable eight-inches . The particular SMA is Nitinol, an alloy of nickel and titanium, which already has a wide variety of applications – you can find Nitinol in the couplers for F-14 fighter planes, in robotics to simulate muscles, and in braces . Though long considered a bit of a miracle material, this is probably one of the more unusual uses yet found for Nitinol.
The device is implanted in the penis, so in spite of the space-age images the phrase “bionic penis” might conjure up, the exterior of the penis still appears quite natural. And while I’m sure some men might like the idea of having a chap that lights up or makes a bit of noise, so far as its medical uses are concerned, it’s a good thing that the little erectile assistant is discreet – it opens up the possibility of more men being restored to how they used to be, instead of simply trying to jazz up their penis.
Once implanted, the device will expand on command. It will take only a few degrees above body temperature for it to become rigid, and Dr. Le is working alongside other researchers to create a handheld remote-controlled device that will perform the necessary heating by being waved over the penis . While it seems like there’s the potential for an embarrassing moment if, say, anyone happens to spill hot coffee in your lap, because the device responds to heat it will be quick and easy to use – so men will be up and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Though so far it’s only been tested on animals, Dr. Le is optimistic that it could be available to men suffering from erectile dysfunction in five to ten years – so the new technology could be just around the corner.
Of course, actually going so far as getting a bionic penis is overkill for many men, and the implant is intended for use only in severe cases which do not respond to any other form of treatment, so an implant should hardly be your go-to if you’re suffering from erectile dysfunction. Testosterone replacement therapy, increasing your physical health and fitness and ensuring you don’t suffer from any conditions which could cause erectile dysfunction should be your earlier ports of call. So if you’re suffering from ED, call a specialist clinic like Wellman before you call your local roboticist – we specialise in erectile dysfunction treatments like Testosterone Replacement Therapy, so there’s no need to take the sci-fi option just yet!