Viagra tested on Everest

Agent may treat PHT

Sildenafil, an active agent used in the impotence drug Viagra, has been administered to seven young mountaineers on an Everest expedition, to test its effect on the lungs. Seven other men on the expedition are receiving a placebo.

Ardeschir Ghofrani & Friedrich Grimminger
Ardeschir Ghofrani & Friedrich Grimminger

Leading the research, Friedrich Grimminger, from the Centre for Internal Medicine, University of Giessen, Germany, was at the base camp to carry out heart, lung and blood tests on the volunteers. He explained that sildenafil might improve the quality of life of pulmonary hypertension (PHT) patients significantly.

In PHT patients blood vessels in the lung constrict, and they suffer breathlessness and cardiac strain during strenuous activities. If the condition is not diagnosed, heart failure (HF) can result. Current therapies are said to be risky, because they reduce general blood pressure and this can lead to circulatory collapse. Dr Ardeschir Ghofrani, another Geissen study team member, reported that the drug reduced PHT without causing a dangerous reduction in blood pressure elsewhere. Because a biochemical similarity exists between the penis and lungs - both contain large amounts of the enzyme phosphodiesterase - it limits penis erection and has been found to constrict blood vessels around lungs. Sildenafil blocks that enzyme, which then allows sustained erection. Similarly, in the lung walls, it appears to improve blood circulation.

In 2003, the healthy young mountaineers were chosen for this test because their lungs undergo rapid change in a matter of weeks when staying at high altitudes. Professor Grimminger explained that they suffer pulmonary hypertension due to a lack of oxygen, which is only partly resolved by acclimatisation. ‘A stay at heights above 5,500 metres cannot be survived in the long run. In the death zone, at levels of above 7,000 metres, survival without an additional oxygen supply is only possible for a few hours to a few days. Changes caused by lack of oxygen can serve as a model for numerous heart and pulmonary diseases. While the process in the mountaineers’ systems is reversible this is not the case for the disease process in patients,’ he added.
Although the study results, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that sildenafil reduced arterial pressure and improved oxygen transport, Professor Grimminger has stressed that the drug would not receive regulatory approval as a treatment for PHT until worldwide tests are completed.

Viagra was invented to treat a range cardiovascular problems but is only licensed to treat impotence. This possible new use is early stage research, said a spokesman for Pfizer, the manufacturer of Viagra, adding, by the by, that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the conquest of Everest, and it is five years since Viagra was launched.

01.07.2004

Read all latest stories

Related articles

Photo

News • Omega-3 and cardiac health

Cardiologists link fish oil supplements with heart rhythm disorder

Omega-3 supplements are associated with an increased likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation in people with high blood lipids. That’s the finding of a study published in European Heart Journal…

Photo

News • L-type calcium channel blockers

LCCBs may contribute to heart failure

L-type calcium channel blockers (LCCBs) — the most widely used drugs for treating hypertension — may harm the heart as much as help it, according to a new study. The research team, led by the…

Photo

News • Tailored treatment needed

Half of patients on statins fail to reach ‘healthy’ cholesterol level after 2 years

Half of patients prescribed statins in primary care fail to reach ‘healthy’ cholesterol levels after two years of treatment with these drugs, reveals research published online in the journal…

Related products

Alsachim – Dosinaco anticoagulant reagent kit (RUO)

Clinical Chemistry

Alsachim – Dosinaco anticoagulant reagent kit (RUO)

Alsachim, a Shimadzu Group Company
Canon – Alphenix Core

Single Plane

Canon – Alphenix Core

Canon Medical Systems Europe B.V.
Sarstedt – Low DNA Binding Micro Tubes

Research Use Only

Sarstedt – Low DNA Binding Micro Tubes

SARSTEDT AG & CO. KG
Shimadzu – CLAM-2030 CL (IVD)/ CLAM-2030 (RUO)

Mass Spectrometry

Shimadzu – CLAM-2030 CL (IVD)/ CLAM-2030 (RUO)

Shimadzu Europa GmbH
Shimadzu – LCMS-8060NX CL (IVD) / LCMS-8060 NX (RUO)

Mass Spectrometry

Shimadzu – LCMS-8060NX CL (IVD) / LCMS-8060 NX (RUO)

Shimadzu Europa GmbH
Subscribe to Newsletter