But unexpectedly, the same protein activity was also found in both prostate gland and penile tissue.
"Now, we know that whatever is being produced in these areas is not sufficient to keep a man's testosterone levels at normal levels," noted Hwang. "But we think these tissues could somehow be major components in the overall male hormone production process."
Hwang stressed that "this was a simple observational and early study. But it's actually very exciting, and we are continuing to explore how this all comes together."
Dr. Edward Kim, president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology at the University of Tennessee's graduate school of medicine in Knoxville, said the finding is worth investigating further.
"What's important about this is that it challenges our current ways of thinking about testosterone production," he said. "It goes up against our present concept that testosterone production is entirely within the realm of the testes and adrenal glands. And this may be an avenue for further research and investigation."
"But clearly, much more research with humans is required to get a real handle on what's going on," he added.
For more on male hormones, head to Tulane University.
SOURCES: Kathleen Hwang, M.D., (current) assistant professor of surgery/urology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, (during study) fellow, Scott department of urology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston; Edward Kim, M.D., president, Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Oct. 19, 2011, presentation, annual meeting, American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), Orlando, Fla.
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