May 1 (UPI) -- An erectile dysfunction drug may be able to treat heart failure, a new study says.
Tadalafil, a drug in the same class as Viagra, slowed down and reversed heart failure in sheep, according to research published Wednesday in Scientific Reports. Since sheep hearts have the same physiological makeup of human hearts, the researchers are confident Tadalafil will work on people.
"We do have limited evidence from human trials and epidemiological studies that show Tadalafil can be effective in treating heart failure," said Andrew Trafford, a researcher at University of Manchester and study author, in news release. "This study provides further confirmation, adds mechanistic detail and demonstrate that Tadalafil could now be a possible therapy for heart failure."
Heart failure happens when the organ is too weak to pump blood through the body. This leads to fluid back up in the lungs, which causes breathlessness.
The researchers used pacemakers to cause heart failure in the sheep, who they then treated with Tadalafil. The drug ultimately stopped, then reversed the heart failure in the animals.
When heart failure occurs, it becomes non-responsive to adrenaline. But Tadalafil helps trigger adrenaline responses in the body to revive the heart in the same way it does to treat erectile dysfunction.
In the United States each year, 5.7 million adults suffer heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Viagra-type drugs were initially developed as potential treatments for heart disease before they were found to have unexpected benefits in the treatment of erectile dysfunction," Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said in a news release. "We seem to have gone full circle, with findings from recent studies suggesting that they may be effective in the treatment of some forms of heart disease -- in this case, heart failure."