Viagra May Protect Your Heart

Researchers in the US at John Hopkins University have claimed that Viagra may be able to prevent and treat heart failure in patients who suffer from high blood pressure. It is thought that Viagra increases the effects of a key protein known to play a role in protecting the heart.

The research has been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Online. The researchers findings have backed up anecdotal evidence from doctors and GPs, who had reported that some older patients suffering from erectile dysfunction, for whom Viagra has been prescribed, have shown improved cardiac function.

The protein that Viagra is believed to boost is called RGS2 (see pictorial representation of RGS2 above on the left). RGS2 offers a degree of protection of the heart in the presence of hypertension, but the effects are not usually sufficiently marked to prevent an eventual progression towards heart failure.

In the reseach studies, three groups of mice were compare. The first group of mice had been genetically modified to have no RGS2. When the blood pressure of these mice was increased, they died quickly from heart failure, within the week. The (control) group of mice that did have RGS2 did not die – but 33% of them had signs of cardiac failure after their blood pressure was increased. Signs of cardiac failure include hypertrophy (increase in size) of the heart. The third group of mice consisted of animals that had RGS2 and were treated with Viagra. This group of mice suffered from statistically significantly less signs of heart failure than the other two groups.

The researchers have thus concluded that “Sildenafil clearly prolongs the protective effects of RGS2 in mouse hearts”. However, I think it would have been nice to have a fourth group of mice, who had no RGS2 but were treated with Viagra. If the RGS2 protein is the key, then this group of mice would also die quickly when their blood pressure is increased. If this group of mice did not die quickly – perhaps the Viagra has an alternative modus operandi even though RGS2 is known to play a protective role.

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