Increasing Sexual Appetite The New Viagra for Women

Can drugs increase sexual desire? Ever since Viagra, the pharmaceutical industry has been dreaming of the perfect aphrodisiac. Now, an American company may have developed a nasal spray that will do just that.

By Ralf Hoppe


Prowling men and lascivious women, orgasms, odors and sports cars -- they're all nothing but molecules. Just like the world itself -- everything is made up of molecules.

No one knows that better than George Dodd -- indeed, he is a self-described marketer of molecules. He's also about to be the proud owner of a collection of molecules in the shape of a brand-new Jaguar XS in midnight blue with dark leather interior. And why not, he thinks to himself? After all, he's 63 and it's about time he spent some money. Besides, money is about to become plentiful in the life of the Irishman, a biochemist by trade. Dodd, who now lives in Scotland, has designed a brand new molecule.

The molecule Dodd has created resembles dopamine, a substance occurring naturally in the brain and which is associated with feelings of pleasure. Dodd's new product is intended to generate a healthy appetite for sex.

Mass production is already well underway, which explains the midnight blue Jaguar. It also explains why Dodd, on this day, is attending the International Conference of Sexologists in Lisbon. It's a four-day meeting of the world's leading experts on sex -- an assembly of those who seek to learn more about sex and provide mankind with more sex or better sex or just plain sex. And Dodd is now one of them. He's also interested in finding out what the competition is up to these days.

Smelling of goats and cheese

It's shortly after 6:30 a.m. In a few minutes, a biotech firm will give a presentation on a product it plans to market, something very similar to George Dodd's invention -- an aphrodisiac. In fact, everyone's working on an aphrodisiac these days. Massive profits are there to be had for the company that comes up with the next, big sex formula.

Dodd, still red-eyed from not getting enough sleep, is sitting in one of the back rows in the "Berlin" conference room at Lisbon's Marriott Hotel. He's a stocky man, and despite his sandals, full beard and pony tail giving him the appearance of an extra in a low-budget film about the Middle Ages, Dodd is cultured, funny, an opera lover, runs one marathon a year and carries pressed handkerchiefs in his pocket. He pulls one out and makes an elaborate show of cleaning his glasses. Then he motions to one of the waiters for a cup of coffee.

He leans over his coffee and closes his eyes.

So -- how's the coffee?

Nutty, smoky, peppery, nutmeggy, woody, with a hint of soap. He speaks softly and succinctly.

Before studying biochemistry at Oxford University, Dodd completed a training program as a perfume maker. When he was a child, he says, his sensitivity to smell was sometimes frightening. He could smell the bacteria that cause milk to go sour long before the milk turned, and he could sense dogs approaching in the distance before they came around the corner. He suffered when his son entered puberty and suddenly began smelling of goats and cheese, says Dodd.

His house on the Scottish coast, directly on the water, is filled to the brim with scent catalogs, shelves full of tiny glass bottles and aluminum cartridges, vessels containing more than 10,000 different aromas, including Tiara Lily oil, at €29,000 a liter, and the bottled scent of dead salmon. When his odor collection gets to be too much, Dodd steps outside for a whiff of the ocean, of salt and seaweed -- and of the sheep grazing in the surrounding countryside.

When it comes to sex, caution is necessary

Here, in his seaside laboratory, Dodd has developed an aroma similar to the messenger substance dopamine. It's meant to entice the brain into thinking that it's time for sex. But its action is gentle, says Dodd, who believes that caution is necessary when it comes to sex and the brain.

The conference room is full, and Dodd joins about 60 other scientists for this morning's session. The subject of the presentation is a substance called Bremelanotide, a so-called heptapeptide -- consisting of eight amino acids, seven of them arranged in the shape of a ring, and making up merely one-thousandth of a protein. This one is named PT-141. The presentation is advertised as the state of the art in current research. He'll believe it when he sees it, he thinks. And the name of the company? Dodd flips through the program. Palatin Technologies, it says. A company from New Jersey.

The speaker approaches the podium. He has long sideburns and sports a silver earring. Dodd takes him for young-looking, 40-something.

The man leans forward and introduces himself. "Good morning," he says. "My name is Jim Pfaus and I'm a professor of behavioral research at Concordia University in Montreal."

Dodd blows on his hot coffee, yawning furtively.

But within 15 minutes, Dodd is as awake as it gets. The substance Pfaus is speaking about -- a new product from Palatin Technologies -- is administered through the nose. That much it has in common with Dodd's idea. But otherwise Palatin's concept is far more radical. PT-141 isn't gentle and it isn't intended to merely lightly stimulate the olfactory system. Instead, the spray quickly enters the bloodstream and is ferried directly into the brain. More than that, according to early test data Pfaus presents, the stuff works -- alarmingly well in fact. Pfaus cites tests on rats that have already been underway for four years, and points to the results of a second test phase involving real-live female humans. The product's success rate is fully 72 percent against just 22 percent in the placebo group. A sensational result.

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