Friday, March 2, 2007
Erectile dysfunction drugs may be better than nitroglycerin in protecting the heart from
damage before and after a severe heart attack, Virginia Commonwealth University
researchers report today.
heart attack, the heart is deprived of oxygen, which can result in significant damage
to heart muscle and tissue. After the attack, most patients require treatment
to reduce and repair the damage and improve their chances of survival. With the
exception of early reperfusion, there are no available therapies that are truly
effective in protecting or repairing such damage clinically.
Kukreja, Ph.D., professor of medicine and Eric Lipman Chair of Cardiology at
VCU, and colleagues compared nitroglycerin with two erectile dysfunction drugs -- Viagra®,
generically known as sildenafil, and Levitra®, generically known as
vardenafil -- to
determine the effectiveness of each for heart protection following a heart
attack. Nitroglycerin is a drug used to treat angina, or chest pain. It is a
vasodilator and opens blood vessels in order to improve the flow of blood to a
The research team reported that in
an animal model, sildenafil and vardenafil reduce damage in the heart muscle
when given after a severe heart attack. In contrast, nitroglycerin failed to
reduce the damage in the heart when administered under similar conditions. The findings
were published in the February issue of the Journal of Molecular and
Cellular Cardiology, the official publication of the International Society for
dysfunction drugs can prevent damage in the heart not only when given before a
heart attack, as we discovered previously, but also lessen the injury after the
heart attack," said Kukreja,
who is the lead author of the study.
to Kukreja, the protective effects on the heart produced by these erectile
dysfunction drugs may be potentially useful as adjunct therapy in patients
undergoing elective procedures, including coronaryartery bypass graft,
coronary angioplasty or heart transplantation. In addition, he said another
potential application could be to prevent the multiple organ damage that occurs
following cardiac arrest, resuscitation or shock.
"Preserving heart function is
critical to optimal cardiac outcomes," said George W. Vetrovec, M.D., chair of
cardiology at the VCU Pauley Heart Center. "These agents have significant
potential to enhance patient outcomes, particularly in high risk circumstances,
such as acute heart attacks."
years, Kukreja and his colleagues have studied a class of erectile dysfunction
drugs known as phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors as part of ongoing research into
heart protection. The team first investigated sildenafil, and then vardenafil,
and found that both compounds were protective when given before a heart attack under experimental
This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes
of Health, Pfizer Inc., and Bayer Healthcare AG.
Kukreja collaborated with VCU researchers Fadi N. Salloum,
Ph.D., Ramzi A. Ockaili, Ph.D., Vladimir P. Daoud, Ph.D., and Eric Chou, Ph.D;
and Yuko Takenoshita, Ph.D., and Kazu-ichi Yoshida, Ph.D., with the Department
of Anesthesiology at Kanagawa Dental College in Japan.
of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology is published by Elsevier Publishing.
About VCU and VCU Medical Center
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.