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August 5, 1983

'Pacemaker' studied for impotence

JAMA. 1983;250(5):583. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340050009004

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By some estimates, as many as 10 million men in the United States may be experiencing some form of impotence. At the recent American Urological Association meeting in Las Vegas, Tom F. Lue, MD, and co-workers Richard A. Schmidt, MD, and Emil A. Tanagho, MD, at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, reported that they have developed a system for studying the physiology of erections under controlled conditions in lower primates.

The key was the discovery, after a six-month search, of several bundles of "basically parasympathetic" nerves posterolateral to the prostate of monkeys. These bundles, the researchers say, can trigger erections when electrically stimulated.

By surgically implanting small electrodes that are activated via radio signals, Lue's group is able to induce and maintain erections in the animals for periods up to several hours. "People have said that the erect penis is a closed system, but that's not true,"