Kisspeptin Hormone Shots May Treat Low Sex Drive in Men and Women

by Liz Neporent
February 13, 2023 at 10:05 AM UTC

Kisspeptin treatment could be the answer to low sexual desire.

Clinical Relevance: A promising treatment for low sex drive is on the horizon

  • Hormone therapy with kisspeptin shows potential for improving sexual attraction processing in both men and women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).
  • In two new trials of kisspeptin therapy, increased interest in sex was well tolerated.
  • Kisspeptin hormone shots are a promising treatment considering that HSDD affects a significant portion of the population and current treatment options are limited.

Injections of the aptly named hormone kisspeptin could spice up sexual attraction processing in people with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).

Two studies in the journal JAMA Network Open–one looking at men and the other at women with a low sex drive–found that those who were given the treatment felt an added sexual spark compared to participants who had not received the hormone.

HSDD affects about 30 percent of women and 15 percent of men, often with detrimental consequences for relationships and quality of life. Treatment options such as psychotherapy and medications are limited and not always helpful, especially for women, said the British researchers who conducted the study. Further, there are currently no licensed treatments nor any in development for men. Kisspeptin therapy could address a real unmet need to find new, safer, and more effective ways to treat the condition, the study authors wrote. 

The trials observed 64 participants, 32 pre-menopausal women and 32 men, all of whom had been diagnosed with HSDD. Participants underwent MRI scans of their brains, as well as blood and behavioral tests and were then were randomly assigned to receive either kisspeptin injections or a placebo. Sexual processing in the brains of the kisspeptin recipients surged and this correlated with improved psychometric measures of sexual aversion and associated distress.

“Our two studies provide proof-of-concept for the development of kisspeptin treatments, as we provide the first evidence that kisspeptin is a potentially safe and effective therapy for both women and men with distressing low sexual desire,” said Alexander Comninos, MD, from the department of metabolism, digestion and reproduction at Imperial College London, consultant endocrinologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and co-senior author of the study.

Kisspeptin is a naturally-occurring hormone that stimulates the release of other reproductive hormones. A decade ago scientists identified high concentrates of the chemical in areas of the brain associated with sexual behavior. Previous research suggested that in men with normal sexual desire, kisspeptin enhances responses to sexual stimuli and boosts the attraction pathways of the brain, independent of other reproductive hormones like testosterone. 

In these new trials, the injections were well-tolerated with no reported side effects by either men or women. The researchers said that based on these encouraging results, they plan further investigate the hormone with the hope of developing kisspeptin-based treatments for people who need a bump in their libido.

“Our studies build on our previous work to assess the effectiveness of kisspeptin and its boosting effects in terms of arousal and attraction. It is highly encouraging to see the same boosting effect in both women and men, although the precise brain pathways were slightly different as might be expected” said the other senior investigator, Waljit Dhillo, MD, also from the department of metabolism, digestion and reproduction at Imperial College London and a consultant endocrinologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

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