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Can Viagra Really Protect Hearts of People with Muscular Dystrophy?

Posted Jul 31 2009 9:35am
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is an inherited wasting disease characterized by weakness and progressive degeneration of the muscles, including the heart muscle. Beginning at the age of 2 to 6, the disease will spread from the legs and pelvis to the whole body. Most people with such disease have to use a wheelchair by the age of about 12.

The heart of the affected patients will experience problems at around the age of 10 and this could progress quickly, affecting most victims by the age of 20. Such heart disease is responsible for the death among patients with muscular dystrophy.

Conducted by Canadian researchers from the Montreal Heart Institute, a study involving mice reported on May 12, 2008 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that anti-impotence pills Viagra might protect the heart of people with muscular dystrophy.

Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, was given to mice with an animal version of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The doses of the drug given were comparable to those prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction in men. It improved the heart performance of the mice by cutting the levels of damage to contracting heart muscle cells.

The heart of those mice to which sildenafil were not given did not function as well as normal mice, and they were more susceptible to stress-induced cell death.

According to the researchers, the drug did improve heart performance in the mice by preventing the breakdown of a naturally occurring chemical called cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), which is involved in a number of cellular signaling pathways.

Besides Viagra, Other impotence drugs like vardenafil sold under the brand name Levitra, and tadalafil sold under the name Cialis also affect the chemical cGMP.

Developed as a heart medication, sildenafil is widely prescribed for erectile dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension. No doubt, there is a lot of information on sildenafil that shows it would be relatively safe in adults but the researchers stressed that future human trials are necessary before doctors could prescribe it for heart trouble for those affected patients.

Although the findings indicated Viagra could potentially be used to prevent or delay heart failure in children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the researchers felt it would be premature to give Viagra to people with such disease.

Nevertheless, it is believed that discussions have begun among health experts about possible future studies using the drug in patients with muscular dystrophy.
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