By Joe Pinkstone For Mailonline
Published: 12:47 BST, 15 September 2020 | Updated: 14:43 BST, 15 September 2020
A gene has been discovered in the brain that regulates male sexual desire, paving the way for new treatments for sex addiction and dysfunction.
The gene controls an enzyme, called aromatase, which is responsible for converting testosterone into oestrogen in the brain, which drives male sexual activity.
Oestrogen is commonly known as the female sex hormone, but it is needed in high levels to drive libido, and is essential for erectile function.
Without oestrogen being made from testosterone, a man's sex drive plummets.
Researchers from Northwestern University found that aromatase is produced by a single gene, called Cyp19a1, opening up potential routes to target the enzyme.
By successfully isolating the gene responsible for creating the enzyme, researchers hope to develop drugs to treat male sex addiction and low libido.
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A study from Northwestern University investigated the role of aromatase in the brain and found the enzyme converts testosterone into oestrogen. This process is key to mal esex drive (stock)
The role of aromatase in the brain has been the topic of lots of research, with scientists struggling to understand its purpose.
Discovering the gene responsible for producing the enzyme that converts testosterone into oestrogen is a major breakthrough.
'This is the first key finding to explain how testosterone stimulates sexual desire,' said senior author Dr Serdar Bulun at Northwestern University.
'For the first time, we demonstrated conclusively that the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen in the brain is critical to maintain full sexual activity or desire in males. Aromatase drives that.'
Researchers removed the Cyp19a1 gene from the brain of male lab mice and put them in cages with a female mouse.
Subsequent sexual activity was slashed in half, despite the rodents having