New research provides evidence that kisspeptin can help boost sexual desire in men and women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder, a medical condition characterized by a persistent or recurring lack of sexual fantasies, desires, and thoughts that lead to problems in intimate relationships. New results appear in JAMA Network Open.
Kisspeptin is a natural hormone that plays a crucial role in the regulation of the reproductive system. It is produced in the hypothalamus of the heart and acts on the pituitary gland to stimulate the release of other hormones involved in fertility. New research suggests that kisspeptin may also play an important role in the psychology of sexual arousal.
“I started researching kisspeptin several years ago regarding its effects on reproduction,” explains the author of the study. Alessandro Comninos, a consultant and honorary lecturer in endocrinology at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. “When I realized that kisspeptin was also present in many areas of the behavioral brain, I wanted to explore this further. After our identification that kisspeptin can influence behavior, the next natural step was to see if it could help people with problems related to these”.
Comninos and colleagues conducted two randomized clinical trials, which employed a placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover protocol, at an academic research center in the United Kingdom. The researchers recruited heterosexual men and women who were worried and/or distressed by low sexual desire. Those who met the criteria for hypoactive sexual desire disorder were enrolled in the studies, leading to a sample of 32 male participants with an average age of 37.9 years and a sample of 32 female participants with an average age of 29.2 years.
The male participants visited the research center twice and received an infusion of kisspeptin or a placebo at each visit. They then performed two video-based tasks while undergoing brain scans. In one task, they watched short videos alternating between sexual and non-sexual content for 12 minutes. In the other task, they watched a longer 8-minute video of a heterosexual couple engaged in sexual activity while their physical and subjective arousal was continuously recorded.
Female participants, on the other hand, watched 20-second videos of sexual content alternating with non-sexual control videos while undergoing brain scans. They also saw 60 images of faces and were asked to rate their attractiveness on a 5-point Likert scale. The faces included very attractive and average attractive men.
Among men, kisspeptin had a significant effect on brain activity in response to sexual visual stimuli compared to a placebo. Specifically, the hormone increased activation in key brain areas related to sexual processing, including the left middle frontal gyrus and the left anterior cingulate cortex. Kisspeptin also increased activity in two key visual brain regions, the right fusiform gyrus and bilateral visual cortex.
In addition, kisspeptin significantly increased penile tumescence, leading to a greater level of physical arousal compared to placebo. Kisspeptin also improved “happiness about sex” reported by men.
Among women, researchers found evidence that kisspeptin increased brain activity in areas related to sexual processing and attraction. Women who were more distressed by their sexual function showed more brain activity enhanced by kisspeptin in the hippocampus, a brain region that has been implicated in female sexual desire.
The more kisspeptin activated the posterior cingulate cortex in response to attractive male faces, the less sexual aversion was reported by the participants. Women also reported feeling “sexier” after receiving kisspeptin compared to placebo.
“Kisspeptin is a potentially safe and effective treatment for people seeking help for their low sexual desire and has a pro-erectile effect in men,” Comninos told PsyPost. “It’s early days, but the results so far are promising especially when you consider that the treatments currently available in the United States for women have limited effectiveness and carry unpleasant side effects (such as nausea and drowsiness) and in the “men are not currently licensed. treatments. Viagra is sometimes used, but it is mainly a mechanical agent that works in the blood flow to the genitals. By contrast, our data suggest that kisspeptin, in addition to having a pro effect -erectile, can significantly improve sexual desire and underlying excitement.
“Study participants underwent MRIs during this study,” Comninos said. “This is clearly not the most comfortable environment and so we were surprised that the administration of kisspeptin had such a powerful boosting effect on sexual pathways, behavior and penis in this clinical environment. I hope that kisspeptin it can be even better in this sense in a more comfortable environment, such as an individual’s home environment.
Kisspeptin was well tolerated with no side effects or adverse events reported. But researchers are interested in exploring alternative routes of administration.
“In this study, we administered kisspeptin by intravenous infusion, which of course is not ideal during a sexual encounter! Now we look at ways that may be easier to administer kisspeptin for example by injection or nasal spray,” explained Comninos.
“It is important to emphasize that this is an initial work. There is a lot to do. We are trying to do larger studies, examining the effects in individuals with different identities and sexualities, and administer kisspeptin-based treatments in easier ways.”
The study, “Effects of kisspeptin on sexual brain processing and penile swelling in men with hypoactive sexual desire disorder: a randomized clinical trial“, was written by Edouard G. Mills, Natalie Ertl, Matthew B. Wall, Layla Thurston, Lisa Yang, Sophia Suladze, Tia Hunjan, Maria Phylactou, Bijal Patel, Beatrice Muzi, Dena Ettehad, Paul A. Bassett, Jonathan Howard , Eugenie A. Rabiner, Paul Bech, Ali Abbara, David Goldmeier, Alexander N. Comninos, and Waljit S. Dhillo.
The study, “Effects of Kisspeptin Administration in Women With Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial“, was written by Layla Thurston, Tia Hunjan, Natalie Ertl, Matthew B. Wall, Edward G. Mills, Sophia Suladze, Bjial Patel, Emma C. Alexander, Beatrice Muzi, Paul A. Bassett, Eugenii A. Rabiner, Paul Bech, David Goldmeier, Ali Abbara, Alexander N. Comninos, and Waljit S. Dhillo.