Deciphering Viagra's Heart Benefit

Study finds how impotence drug helps protect the heart

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FRIDAY, March 21, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The impotence drug Viagra appears to help protect the heart by stimulating the release of nitric oxide in cardiac cells, shielding a healthy heart against future damage.

A Virginia Commonwealth University mouse study is the first to show that the drug, used to treat erectile dysfunction, produces therapeutic levels of nitric oxide. The study will appear in the April 4 issue of Circulation Research.

Nitric oxide is a molecule that's involved in regulating nearly every biological process. Helping blood vessels to relax is one of its effects.

In this study, researchers gave injections of dissolved Vigara pills to adult male mice. They found the drug dramatically reduced the severity of heart damage in mice during experimental heart attacks.

The study also found a significant increase of nitric oxide synthase enzymes in the mouse hearts after they were injected with Viagra. That finding was an important advance in understanding the molecular mechanisms behind Viagra-induced heart protection.

The study was funded by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about erectile dysfunction.

SOURCE: Virginia Commonwealth University, news release, March 13, 2003

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