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Health

Viagra Could Be a Lifesaver for Muscular Dystrophy Patients

DiscoblogBy Melissa LafskyMay 14, 2008 8:06 PM

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Viagra has worn many jackets in its day. It's been a heart medicine, a Bob-Dole-championed combatant of erectile dysfunction, and now, if you have muscular dystrophy, it may save your life. Researchers at the Montreal Heart Institute have found that Viagra—or sildenafil, its generic name—boosted the heart circulation of mice with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, thereby warding off heart failure and likely death.

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Duchenne muscular dystrophy is one of the most common types of the disease in humans, attacking roughly one in 3,600 males during childhood and causing severe muscle degeneration that can lead to cardiac problems. Patients typically die of heart failure by their mid-twenties. The Viagra—which was administered to the mice in doses comparable to those given to sexually ailing men—worked by blocking PDE5, an enzyme that breaks down cGMP, a nucleotide that keeps blood vessels dilated. As a result, the ailing mice suffered no loss of blood to their hearts, which remained healthy and strong. The research team has yet to start human trials, though Montreal Heart Institute director Jean-Claude Tardif is optimistic that the findings will lead to an effective treatment. Still no word on whether the mice saw any improvement in their sex lives.

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