(NEW YORK) -- Though young boys may seem like unlikely candidates for treatment with Viagra, new research in mice suggests that the drug, which is usually prescribed for erectile dysfunction, may one day be used to minimize heart problems for pre-teen and adolescent boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Since Viagra, also known as sildenafil, was approved for erectile dysfunction in 1998, researchers have identified a number of other conditions that benefit from the "little blue pill," such as pulmonary hypertension, heart problems in severely premature infants, and decreased circulation in patients with gangrene. New research suggests it might even help treat prostate cancer.
Now, Viagra has the potential to become a heart helper for young boys who are just beginning to suffer from cardiac degeneration due to Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or DMD.
Using mice bred to mimic DMD, researchers found that treatment with Viagra was able to normalize abnormal heart function in these mice within a few days. When given to mice that had not yet shown cardiac symptoms, the drug also appeared to delay the onset of cardiac symptoms.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a degenerative, muscle-wasting disease that usually affects young boys, though girls can be carriers of the disease. It causes progressive muscle weakness and loss, usually confining patients to a wheelchair by around age ten. It often leads to death before the age of 30. In later stages, degeneration of the diaphragm and heart can lead to potentially fatal breathing complications and heart failure.
Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio