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Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Could Help Boys With Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular Dystrophy is a group of genetic diseases that make the muscular tissues unusually susceptible to damage.  Most people who have Muscular Dystrophy require a wheelchair and other side effects may include difficulty breathing or swallowing.  Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, named after its discoverer, French neurologist Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne, is one of the most aggressive forms primarily affecting boys.  It is passed from the mother to their child, and until recently, affected boys likely did not live past their teenage years.  However, a new therapy is offering great promise for those afflicted and it might not be the drugs you would expect: erectile dysfunction drugs.

Small Study Finds Hope in Cialis, Viagra

The current study, which involved only 10 boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, used erectile dysfunctions drug Cialis and Viagra to improve blood flow to the boys’ muscles.  In Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, blood flows abnormally to the muscles, depriving them of oxygen and leading to their weakened state.  Erectile dysfunction drugs are meant to increase blood flow, in their prescribed use, to the penis, but in this case, to the muscles.  The drug cannot tell the difference of where blood flow should be increased, making it useful for the boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Help More Than Typical Treatments for Muscular Dystrophy

Typically, boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy are given steroids to help slow the muscle deterioration.  However, the study authors compared steroids to erectile dysfunction drugs and found that although steroids can slow muscle deterioration and protect heart and lung function, they weren’t able to correct for the abnormal blood flow.  The researchers specifically measured the blood flow of boys on steroids and compared those with the boys on erectile dysfunction medication while at rest and while doing a hand grip exercise.  The results revealed that the erectile dysfunction drugs improved blood flow, while the steroids did not.  However, the study authors point out that although the erectile dysfunction drugs improved blood flow, they aren’t sure if this translates into slower disease progression.  Testing that hypothesis will come during a larger clinical trial, set to take place soon.  The results of the study were recently published in the medical journal, Neurology.


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