Published on May 15, 2008 at 8:07 AM
A new study appears to have found another use for the drug Viagra other than for treating problems such as erectile dysfunction.
Canadian researchers say Viagra may help patients suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease that affects roughly one in 3,600 males and the first signs of the illness usually appear around age five.
It is a muscle-wasting illness which leads to muscle weakness, scoliosis, heart problems and obesity and few patients survive beyond age 25; heart failure is usually the cause of death.
The researchers reached this conclusion following a study in mice engineered to develop Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
For the study the mice were given doses of Viagra comparable to the doses that men would take to relieve erectile dysfunction and the drug appeared to protect their heart muscle. According to the researchers, it was the active ingredient in Viagra, sildenafil, which provided the protection.
Viagra is also used to treat pulmonary hypertension and altitude sickness.
The researchers led by Christine Des Rosiers at the Montreal Heart Institute say the findings suggest that in the future people with muscular dystrophy may be able to take the drug to protect their hearts.
Des Rosiers says though the drug has been shown to be safe, it is too premature to give to people to help treat muscular dystrophy, and clinical trials would need to be done before it could safely be prescribed.
Viagra is manufactured by Pfizer and is the leading anti-impotence drug sold around the world.
The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.