OBJECTIVES: To study the age-associated changes in the percentage of collagen and subtypes I, III, and IV within the corpora cavernosa in a rat model. METHODS: The corpora cavernosa tissues were obtained from 30 male Wistar rats at three different ages. Processed with Masson ’s trichrome staining for collagen and with immunohistochemical staining for the collagen subtypes, the values of the collagen percentage, the percentage of area, and relative proportion of each collagen subtype within the rat corpora cavernosa were measured using an automatic image analysis system. The relationships between an increase in age and these parameters were analyzed. RESULTS: The percentage of collagen within the corpora cavernosa was higher in the old rats (80 weeks) than in the young (20 weeks) and intermediate-age (40 weeks) rats (P = 0.02 and P = 0.25, respectively) and significantly increased with age (P = 0.021). The values of the percentage of area of collagen subtypes III and IV also increased significantly with age (P = 0.039 and P = 0.019, respectively). The value of the percentage of area of collagen subtype I was not significantly increased (P = 0.159). Also, no significant differences were found in the relative proportions of all three collagen subtypes with age among the three age groups. CONCLUSIONS: The percentages of collagen within rat corpora cavernosa significantly increased, but not strongly, with age, especially collagen subtypes III and IV. However, the relative proportion of each subtype did not change with age. Therefore, we conclude that the amount of collagen may only partly contribute to erectile dysfunction in the aging process of the rat.
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