There is an unmet need for treatment of erectile dysfunction resulting from radical prostatectomy and cavernous nerve (CN) injury. Given the neuroprotective properties of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), we investigated its effect on penile functional and structural recovery in a rat model of bilateral cavernous nerve injury. Rats were subject to CN injury and received intraperitoneal administration of either vehicle or a DHA nanoemulsion (nano-DHA) at 10, 50, or 250 μg/kg. Functional testing and histological analyses were performed at 28 days post-injury. The maximum intracavernosal pressure (ICP) and other measures of erectile function were significantly higher in the nano-DHA groups than in the vehicle group (p < 0.05). The ratio of area of expression of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS)/β-III tubulin, numbers of axon and smooth muscle cell content were significantly higher in the 50 μg/kg nano-DHA group than in the vehicle group (p < 0.05). A qualitative increase in the smooth muscle cells/collagen ratio and decrease in apoptosis was observed in the nano-DHA groups relative to the vehicle group: however, these differences were not statistically significant. Our data demonstrate that nano-DHA, particularly the 50 μg/kg regimen, improves erectile function after bilateral CN injury in rats by neuroprotection and other anti-fibrotic and anti-apoptotic mechanisms.
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