Get Excited! Study Points to Possible Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease: Viagra

The Cleveland Clinic released a statement today announcing some unexpected but exciting news: Viagra may be an effective preventative for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

A new Cleveland Clinic-led study has identified sildenafil – an FDA-approved therapy for erectile dysfunction (Viagra) and pulmonary hypertension (Ravatio) – as a promising drug candidate to help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease

The research team, led by Feixiong Cheng, Ph.D., of Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute, made the discovery as part of a data-mining study. They performed a large-scale computational analysis of medical insurance data from over 7 million patients, evaluating medicines already FDA-approved and in use as possible candidates for repurposing as therapeutics for the devastating disease.

Sildenafil came out on top, associated with a 69% (snicker) reduction in the incidence of AD in patients who took the drug.

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The researchers then went on to create an AD-affected brain cell model on which they further tested sildenafil’s effect on the disease. The results here were promising as well:

In the model, they found that sildenafil increased brain cell growth and decreased hyperphosphorylation of tau proteins (a hallmark which leads to neurofibrillary tangles), offering biological insights into how sildenafil may influence disease-related brain changes.

As usual in the early stages of drug assessment, more research needs to be performed before sildenafil can definitively be declared an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s:

“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 randomized clinical trial to test causality and confirm sildenafil’s clinical benefits for Alzheimer’s patients,” said Dr. Cheng. “We also foresee our approach being applied to other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, to accelerate the drug discovery process.”

Sure, it’s kind of funny that a drug known for treating erectile disfunction might also be the long-wished-for cure for one of the cruelest diseases. But it would also be fantastic news, if it turns out to be true.

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