The cavernous nerve is often damaged during surgery for prostate cancer leading to erectile dysfunction (ED). Researchers previously found that the protein that goes by the name of sonic hedgehog (SHH) is critical if this nerve is to be regenerated post-operatively. The same team has now investigated the issue from a different perspective: might sonic hedgehog actually protect the nerves after the crush injury they often experience during surgery?
They have found that, “There is a window of opportunity immediately after nerve insult in which manipulation of SHH signaling in the nerve microenvironment can affect long-term regeneration outcome.” This bodes well for better outcomes for the sex lives of post-op prostate cancer patients.
Angeloni, N., Bond, C.W., Harrington, D., Stupp, S. & Podlasek, C.A. (2012). Sonic Hedgehog Is Neuroprotective in the Cavernous Nerve with Crush Injury, The Journal of Sexual Medicine, no. DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02930.x