Drugs used for curing erectile dysfunction may also relieve male diabetes patients from the pain caused by life-threatening nerve damage. The research at Henry Ford Hospital targeted diabetic peripheral neuropathy, the most common complication of diabetes, affecting as many as 70 percent of patients.
Dr.Lei Wang, MD, the Henry Ford neuroscientist who led the research, said that although numerous drugs have been shown to be effective in earlier animal experiments, most have not provided benefits in clinical trials.
To mimic clinical trials in which diabetes patients have advanced peripheral neuropathy, the Henry Ford researchers chose male mice with type II diabetes that were 36 weeks old, roughly equivalent to middle age in humans.
To test the therapeutic effect for long-term peripheral neuropathy, the researchers chose diabetic mice that were more than twice as old. In one group, 15 such mice were treated with an oral dose of sildenafil/Viagra every day for eight weeks. A control group of 15 age-matched diabetic mice were treated daily with the same amount of saline.
After a battery of nerve and function tests were performed on both the drug-treated and control groups, results "revealed that sildenafil markedly improved sensory function starting at six weeks after treatment compared with saline-treated diabetic mice," said Wang.
The study is published online in PLOS ONE.