Dating and Sex: Men Who Find Talking to Women Difficult May Soon Have a Hormone Treatment

Researchers have identified a hormone that can embolden men sexually and make them less anxious about pursuing women. It’s called kisspeptin, and codes for a gene called Kiss1. In 2017 we are poor in friends but rich in irony.

Researchers studied the effect of increased kisspeptin activity in male mice via a pharmacosynthetic technique called DREADDs (it stands for Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs). A combination of targeted chemical injections selectively stimulated kisspeptin-responsive neurons; once they’d been so activated, the mice became more driven to pursue the female mice, and for significantly longer intervals, and were less anxious while they did so.

This study marks the first time the hormone has ever been linked to a command of sexual and social behavior. The researchers concluded that kisspeptin is responsible for coordinating male sexual motivation and anxiety in concert to maximize the possibility of sex. The potentially upsetting discovery was presented today at the annual conference of the Society For Endocrinology.

The study didn’t get into whether the same hormone manipulation would produce similar results among female mice, though you kind of hope they had some time to themselves. Male anxiety is often tangled up with male sexual dysfunction, and the findings make kisspeptin a new target for treating those conditions in human men. Remember when the Internet was consumed with the prospect of ‘mental Viagra’ earlier this year? That was kisspeptin. That study too was just for the cause of the male sex drive, but the researchers said they intend to focus on women at some point. The good news is that the mean time kisspeptin can be used to make women more fertile. It’s all a bit close to home.

“We manipulated kisspeptin signaling in the amygdala using chemogenetic technique; although not validated yet in humans,” lead researcher Daniel Adekunbi explained to Newsweek via email. “Since there is evidence from human studies showing that kisspeptin administered peripherally activates the reproductive axis, one may suggest that kisspeptin may serve as a therapeutic agent against reproductive disorders and in this instance sexual disinterest.”

Despite the volume of Freud fan-fiction claiming that men fear women’s menstrual cycles because the blood puts them in mind of castration, a lot of research in sexual biology indicates that men are more aroused by women when they’re ovulating. Kisspeptin seems likely to be responsible for that phenomenon, too; it's usually associated with puberty and pregnancy.

And to answer the obvious question: Despite the impressive relationship between its name and its brand, the hormone actually got the 'kiss' prefix because it was discovered in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in the 1990s.

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