Scientists say that in five years there could be a heat-activated penis implant for those suffering from erectile dysfunction. Unlike pharmaceutical options such as Viagra, the implant is made from nitinol — a nickel-titanium alloy. It expands and becomes erect when exposed to heat. Researcher Brian Le of the University of Wisconsin-Madison explained to the International Business Times that he and his team are now working on a remote-controlled heating device to accompany the implant. It will work by being be waved over the implant, activating it and causing the penis to expand in both length and girth. "We demonstrated that an Ni-Ti-based prosthesis can produce the mechanical forces necessary for producing a simulated erection without the need for a pump or reservoir, comparable with existing prostheses," Le and his team wrote in Urology.
The new implant is an exoskeleton that's inserted into the penis. At room temperature, nitinol (which is already used in other devices) is flexible and flaccid. When it's heated up, it expands into a shape that's "remembered," which means it can be placed in a way that it grows in a straight line and gives the user an erection. Currently, the most common treatment for erectile dysfunction includes medication as well as inflatable pumps and implants, which can leave men with permanent erections and cause damage to the penis. The team states that if it meets all of its goals, the implant and remote should be fully functioning and available (after testing) in five to 10 years.
"We're hoping that, with a better device, a better patient experience, and a simpler surgery, more urologists would perform this operation, and more patients would want to try the device," Le told the International Business Times. "It's a survivorship issue — restoring function can help people feel whole in their bodies again."