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ORIGINAL RESEARCH—BASIC SCIENCE: Study of Interstitial Cells in the Penis: Human Study


Ahmed Shafik, MD, 2 Talaat Harb Street, Cairo, 11121, Egypt. Tel: (+20) 27498851; Fax: (+20) 27498851; E-mail:


Introduction.  Specialized pacemaker cells, similar to the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) of the gut, have been detected in the urinary organs and are thought to pace their motile activity.

Aim.  We investigated the hypothesis that such cells could also exist in the corpora cavernosa (CC) of the human penis.

Methods.  During the treatment of Peyronie’s disease in 11 subjects (age 42.6 ± 3.2 SD years), 3 × 3 mm strips were excised from each of the two CC and subjected to C-kit immunohistochemistry. Controls for the specificity of the antisera consisted of incubation of the tissue with normal rabbit serum substituted for the primary antiserum.

Main Outcome Measures.  Interstitial cells similar to ICC could exist in the CC based on C-kit immunohistochemistry.

Results.  C-kit positive branched interstitial cells were detected in the CC. They were clearly distinguishable from the smooth muscle cells that were C-kit negative and non-branched. Although the mast cells were C-kit positive, they had a smooth body surface.

Conclusions.  Interstitial cells have been identified in the CC. They are similar to the ICC and may be responsible for initiating the slow waves recorded from the smooth muscle cells and for controlling their activity. We assume that a deficiency or absence of these cells may affect the erectile function of the patient. Further studies are needed to explore the role of these cells in erection. Shafik A. Study of interstitial cells in the penis: Human study. J Sex Med 2007;4:66–71.