A New use for Viagra, Relieving Nerve Damage

 

new use for viagra

New study finds a new use for Viagra, relieving nerve damage in diabetic mice.

Erectile dysfunction is a common condition, epspecially with advanced age. But there are treatments. These come in the form of vasodilating drugs like sildenafil also known under the name Viagra. Sildenafil’s mechanism of action also make it suitable to treat other conditions, one being the rare condition pulmonary arterial hypertension. Finding another use for a drug already on the market isn’t unusual, especially for a drug with a ubiquitous mode of action such as vasodilation. A new study from the Henry Ford Health System report having found just such an action, a new use for Viagra.

New Use for Viagra, Relieving Nerve Damage

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), or nerve damage caused by diabetes, is the most common complication of diabetes, affecting as many as 70% of patients. DPN is caused by chronically high blood sugar levels that damages nerves close to the surface of the skin. The nerve damage makes some nerve signals unable to reach the brain leading to a loss of sensation. Pain is a really usefully sensation not feeling it can lead to small cuts going unnoticed resulting in infection that might progress so far an amputation is called for.

Previous studies from Leo Wang M.D, lead author of this study, found that treating animals with the erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil improved blood supply to the sciatic nerve. A similar effect is thought to exist in human diabetes patients, since patient treated with sildenafil have fewer symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

Since DPN is more common in older patients researchers used 36 week old male mice with type II diabetes in the study, comparable to middle-aged humans. Usually younger mice are used for animal trials on diabetic neuropathy, but since people treated for the condition are middle-aged researchers chose to use mice of corresponding age.

In the study 15, 36 week-old mice were treated with an oral dose of sildenafil (10mg/kg) every day for eight weeks. 15 mice served as controls being treated with the same amount of saline. A battery of nerve function tests on both groups of mice revealed that mice treated with the erectile dysfunction drug had marked improvements compared to controls.

“These data indicate that sildenafil improves neurological function even in middle-aged mice with long-term diabetic peripheral neuropathy.” Dr. Wang.

If clinical trials confirm that the same effect is present in people, sildenafil might find use as a new type of treatment for peripheral neuropathy in diabetic patients with poor blood glucose control. If it works this new use for viagra could help avoid many serious condition caused by DPN in diabetes patients.

Image Credit: Tim Reckmann via flickr.com, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0