Botox may help ease urinary symptoms caused by noncancerous enlarged prostates.
The findings were presented in Montreal at the International Continence Society's annual meeting.
As men age, it's very common for the prostate gland to get bigger. The condition, called BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) is usually harmless, but it can interfere with urination.
"Most men consider an enlarged prostate and the irritating symptoms that accompany it as an inevitability of aging and may not seek help because currently available therapies can have serious side effects, including impotence," says University of Pittsburgh urology professor Michael Chancellor, MD, in a news release.
Chancellor worked on the Botox experiment with colleagues from his university and from Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
According to the American Urological Association, BPH will affect approximately 50 percent of men between the ages of 51 and 60 and up to 90 percent of men over the age of 80.
"Alternative treatments are needed," continues Chancellor. "We've taken an important step by demonstrating how Botox can work as a potential new therapy for the large number of men who suffer from this condition."
Botox may be most familiar to many people for smoothing out wrinkles. However, it's also approved to treat an eye disorder called strabismus and painful neck and shoulder contractions. It works by causing a local and temporary paralysis of muscles.
Botox is the brand name of botulinum toxin type A. It's made from a very small dose of the deadly toxin.
Chancellor and colleagues injected various doses of Botox into rats' enlarged prostates. A week later, the scientists checked the results.
Three prostate trends stood out: a rise in cell deaths, a drop in new cells, and a drop in activity of adrenergic receptors. Those receptors make prostate and bladder muscles contract, hampering urination.
By blocking those receptors, prostate and bladder muscles should relax, letting urine flow better, states the news release, which came from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
SOURCES: 35th Annual Meeting of the International Continence Society, Montreal, Aug. 28-Sept. 2, 2005. News release, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. American Urological Association.