Possible new indication for Viagra: stroke

By Martha Kerr

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters Health) – Studies in rats show that sildenafil citrate (Viagra, Pfizer) has the ability to induce neurogeneration, angiogenesis, and dendritic arborization, investigators reported here Friday evening at the American Stroke Association's 27th International Stroke Conference.

Dr. Michael Chopp and colleagues, at Henry Ford Health Science Center in Detroit, experimentally induced strokes in rats by occluding the middle cerebral artery. They then administered Viagra 2 mg or 5 mg for 6 consecutive days. A group of untreated rats served as controls.

Twenty-eight days later, Dr. Chopp observed an area of new cell growth that was 237.27 square millimeters in size in animals given the 2 mg dose and an area that was 541.02 square millimeters in size in animals that received the 5 mg dose of Viagra. Untreated animals had a much smaller area of brain cell growth that was 177.94 square millimeters in size.

Dr. Chopp told Reuters Health that the animals exhibited "major functional recovery. They had improved coordination, they gained weight…The animals did better on all indices of functional recovery."

He reported that "treatment was effective even when initiated 24 hours after the onset of ischemia, which is far beyond the therapeutic window for neuroprotection."

The drug had virtually no effect on infarct size, but the ability of Viagra to stimulate neurogeneration, as well as angiogenesis and dendritic arborization, boosting synapse formation, demonstrates the brain's plasticity and its ability to remodel to compensate for damage, Dr. Chopp noted.

The Detroit team said that more preclinical data are needed before clinical trials can be planned, but that this phase should be completed within a year. "We are not funded at all," Dr. Chopp admitted, which is hampering his team's ability to proceed with its investigation.

The investigators have applied for a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Chopp is optimistic that the NIH will review that application within the next few weeks. And he said that he is very optimistic that Viagra will prove to be efficacious in the treatment of stroke.

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