ich include Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, may offer some important benefits in this case," he said.
In a healthy person, phosphodiesterase type 5 constricts arteries in two places in the body-the lungs and the penis. In the lungs, it prevents excessively low blood pressure. In the penis, it prevents excessive engorgement.
However, undue phosphodiesterase type 5 can constrict these arteries too much and cause problems, as it does in the case of pulmonary hypertension, where lung arteries constrict and put a strain on the right ventricle of the heart.
Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors allow the arteries to relax so that blood can flow more easily.
The researchers studied human hearts and showed that phosphodiesterase type 5 is expressed in large amounts in thickened (hypertrophied) right ventricles, but not in healthy hearts. They replicated their results in animal models and also showed that Viagra enhanced the output of hypertrophied right ventricles.
Michelakis noted that this might be the first example of a drug that can improve the function of the right ventricle (which is diseased in pulmonary hypertension), without affecting the left ventricle (which is normal in pulmonary hypertension).
"This selectivity is important and has direct clinical implications. Relaxing the lung arteries alone may not be sufficient to help the patient, if the right ventricle is too weak to push blood through them. A drug such as Viagra, with a combined beneficial effect both in the lung arteries and the right ventricle of the heart, offers a significant advantage," Michelakis said.
"Viagra is a drug that millions of people take every year, and we've just learned something new and essential about how it works," Nagendran said.
"This drug can have an immediate and direct clinical application, so we're pretty excited about these findings," Michelakis added.
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