Sex Drive Low? Study Finds Hormone Injections Can Help Your Libido

Low libido is a common concern for both men and women and it usually means turning to medications to resolve the issue, according to NHS Inform. But all that could change, as two different studies for men and women from the United Kingdom have found that a hormone called kisspeptin may boost sexual desire (per U.S. News & World Report).

Kisspeptin is a protein that helps to control reproductive hormones (via Society for Endocrinology). The gene that gives the blueprint for the appropriately-named protein was discovered in 1996 in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Kisspeptin can be found in the hypothalamus and controls the release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which then stimulates the production of luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). In women's ovaries and men's testes, these two hormones produce the sex steroids known as oestradiol and testosterone, which contribute to sexual desire.

A low sex drive might indicate hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), which can happen with a partner or on your own (via Planned Parenthood). This can be due to a number of causes, including stress, sexual trauma, anxiety or depression, certain medications, low levels of sex hormones, and certain medical conditions. While men can take Viagra for erectile dysfunction, this only treats the mechanical aspect of sex, not the low sexual desire which occurs in the brain (per U.S. News & World Report). There are a couple of medications available for women, but they come with unwanted side effects.

The effects of kisspeptin on arousal areas of the brain

In two different studies, researchers explored the effects of kisspeptin injections on both men and women. The 2022 study via JAMA Network Open included 32 women between the ages of 19 to 48 who had HSDD. Once injected with kisspeptin, researchers found that the parts of their brains responsible for arousal lit up when watching erotic videos (per U.S. News & World Report). For those who felt particularly concerned about their low sex drive, this area of the brain lit up even more after the kisspeptin injection.

A second study done in 2023 looked at 32 men with HSDD and had similar findings. When viewing erotic videos after receiving an injection of kisspeptin, the male participants' brains lit up in the same way. They also experienced increased penis rigidity (via U.S. News & World Report). Much like the study done with women, male participants who experienced concern about their low libido were more likely to have a stronger response to the injection.

Kisspeptin is the first hormone shown to be a safe and side-effect-free treatment for HSDD and was effective in both men and women. Over time, pharmaceutical companies could develop a shot that can be taken at home to increase libido. However, this could still be five to ten years into the future, and larger studies are needed to confirm these findings.