Viagra could be used to treat Alzheimer's disease

Since coming onto the market and revolutionising the treatment of erectile dysfunction, Viagra has been found useful for other purposes, such as in the treatment of hypertension. And now it is emerging as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

A United States study has found that sildenafil, the name of the drug that is branded Viagra for erectile dysfunction or Revatio for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension, has emerged as a promising drug candidate to help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers from the Cleveland Clinic screened and validated over 1600 drugs approved for use by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and conducted analysis of a database containing more than seven million patients for those that could be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Read: Naps could be good for your brain health

The drugs that scored the highest on these tests were the ones that targeted both amyloid and tau, two of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

They then determined that sildenafil was associated with a 69 per cent reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers explained that the next step would involve clinical trial testing of the drug’s efficacy in patients with the disease.

Read: The early life dementia indicator you may have missed

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in Australia, accounting for around 70 per cent of the more than 400,000 dementia sufferers in the community.

Using computational methodology, the research team was able to examine the relationship between sildenafil and Alzheimer’s disease outcomes by comparing users of the drug with non-users.

They found that sildenafil users were 69 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than non-sildenafil users after a six-year follow-up period.

Read: How air pollution affects brain function

“Notably, we found that sildenafil use reduced the likelihood of Alzheimer’s in individuals with coronary artery disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, all of which are comorbidities significantly associated with risk of the disease, as well as in those without,” said Dr Feixiong Cheng, the study lead.

To further explore their findings, the researchers developed an Alzheimer’s patient-derived brain cell model using stem cells.

In the model, they found that sildenafil increased brain cell growth and decreased one of the significant causes of tau tangles in the brain.

“Because our findings only establish an association between sildenafil use and reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, we are now planning a mechanistic trial and a phase II randomised clinical trial to test causality and confirm sildenafil’s clinical benefits for Alzheimer’s patients,” said Dr Cheng.

He said the team would also investigate whether the same approach could be used for other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Do you use Viagra or Revatio? Are you buoyed by the news that these drugs could help protect you from Alzheimer’s disease? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben

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