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Viagra May Help Prevent As Well As Treat Alzheimer's Disease: US Researchers

Sildenafil, a drug used for erectile dysfunction, is associated with 69 per cent reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers from Cleveland Clinic.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : December 8, 2021 5:57 PM IST

Alzheimer's disease is a neurological condition that causes memory loss and cognitive decline. Unfortunately, there's currently no cure for Alzheimer's. However, there are treatments that may change disease progression and drugs that can temporarily reduce the symptoms. Now, a study published in the journal Nature Aging has claimed that impotence pill Viagra may help prevent as well as treat Alzheimer's disease.

The authors from Cleveland Clinic stated that Sildenafil, a drug approved by the US FDA for erectile dysfunction, is associated with 69 per cent reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease.

Preclinical studies have shown that Sildenafil can significantly improve cognition and memory in animal models, noted Feixiong Cheng, from Cleveland Clinic's Genomic Medicine Institute.

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Viagra users less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease

For the study, the US research team analysed a database of more than 7 million patients, and over 1,600 FDA-approved drugs, of which are studied as potential therapies for Alzheimer's. These include sildenafil, losartan, metformin, diltiazem and glimepiride.

Amyloid plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles, resulting from the buildup of beta amyloid and tau proteins respectively in the brain, are two hallmarks of Alzheimer's-related brain changes. Drugs that target both amyloid and tau were given higher scores compared to drugs that target just one.

According to the researchers, sildenafil presented as the best drug candidate.

After 6 years of follow-up, sildenafil users were 69 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease compared to non-sildenafil users. Specifically, sildenafil users had a 55 per cent lower risk of the disease compared to losartan users, 63 per cent compared to metformin, 65 per cent compared to diltiazem and 64 per cent compared to glimepiride, they said.

Notably, sildenafil use reduced the likelihood of Alzheimer's in individuals with coronary artery disease, hypertension and Type-2 diabetes, all of which are associated with higher risk of the neurological disease, Cheng said.

How Viagra works against Alzheimer's disease

To understand how sildenafil may benefit Alzheimer's patients, they developed a brain cell model. They found that sildenafil increased brain cell growth and decreased hyperphosphorylation of tau proteins -- which can lead to neurofibrillary tangles.

The researchers noted that their findings only establish an association between sildenafil use and reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Next, they plan to conduct a mechanistic trial and a phase II randomised clinical trial to confirm sildenafil's clinical benefits for Alzheimer's patients.

They hope that their approach may help accelerate the drug discovery process of other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

With inputs from agencies

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