Could Viagra Help Prevent and Treat Alzheimer’s Disease?

Could Viagra Help Prevent and Treat Alzheimer’s Disease?

The impotence pill Viagra may be a useful treatment against Alzheimer’s disease, say US researchers who have been studying its effects in the brain.
Tests in cells suggest the drug targets some of the proteins that accumulate in this type of dementia.

The Cleveland team also analysed a database of 7m patients and found men who were on the drug had a lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
However, the team stresses that much more research is needed to find out if the benefit extends to humans and if so, whether the drug would actually prevent the disease.
The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dementia across the world
In Canada about 850,000 people have dementia, but this is expected to rise to one million by 2021 and two million by 2051.

Over 40% of people with dementia are thought to have Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease , which affects memory, thinking and behavior.
The disease is incurable and usually develops slowly over several years, leading to problems with memory, language, the ability to concentrate and simple tasks such as washing and dressing.
The Cleveland team, led by Dr Bruce Yankner, has been exploring ways of targeting the toxic proteins that accumulate in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients.
This is a key driver in the disease, but it is not yet clear how these proteins start building up or how they might be removed once they have formed.
The scientists have been testing drugs that have been developed to treat other conditions but which target these proteins.
‘Greater risk’
One of these is Viagra, more commonly known as the impotence pill for erectile dysfunction.
The drug works by stimulating a protein in the blood vessels in the penis.
Dr Yankner’s team suspected that Viagra might also be working on a similar protein in the blood vessels of the brain, which could target the toxic proteins.
To test their idea, they looked at brain tissue from Alzheimer’s patients and found that the drug did indeed seem to be having an effect.
The team then examined the medical records of 7m people taking part in Alzheimer’s research.

In total they looked at records of 12,000 patients who were on Viagra and compared them with records of a similar number of patients of the same age and sex who were not on the drug.

They found that men taking Viagra were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who were not taking the drug.

However, the risk of Alzheimer’s was not affected in women on the drug.
Dr Yankner said: “Our results suggest that drugs designed to improve blood flow in the brain by targeting nitric oxide pathways may be useful for treating Alzheimer’s disease.”
The Alzheimer’s Society said that more research was needed to establish whether Viagra could be a useful treatment for the disease.

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at the charity, said: “As ever, it is important not to over-hype research results.
“However, these results have been replicated in mice and in humans, which means we need to take them seriously and look further into what this might mean for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We look forward to seeing the results of further research in this area.”
Prof David Allsop, a neuroscientist at the University of Lancaster, said: “One would hope that treatments based on nitric oxide could be effective against Alzheimer’s disease and this study provides some evidence that this is the case.”

But he cautioned: “This is a very small study and it is important to bear in mind that the results only show an association between Viagra use and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease in men.

“Much more research is needed to show whether this effect is real and, if it is, whether it is due to a specific characteristic of the drug or a more general effect in the brain.”

Original Article

 

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/viagra-associated-reduced-risk-alzheimers-disease

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