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Competition for Viagra?

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Sure enough, it worked. They injected a drug called Y-27632, a known inhibitor of Rho-kinase, into the spongy cylinders of rats, causing penile erections. In further testing, they showed that the Rho-kinase inhibition worked completely independently of the way Viagra works.

It's estimated that about half of all American men between the ages of 40 and 70 are affected with impotence to some degree, and the underlying causes vary. Sometimes, psychological reasons or lifestyle factors, such as excessive alcohol consumption, can lead to impotence. However, a persistent problem is usually due to a chronic illness or a side effect of certain drugs.

"Viagra has proven effective in 60-70% of the general population and only about 40% effective in specific groups like diabetics who have some form of erectile dysfunction," says Wingard. "Thus, it appears that we have a new angle on developing a therapeutic treatment of erectile dysfunction that does not rely on the action of the nitric oxide pathway."

"The type of drug studied in this article uses an entirely new pathway to cause erections in animals, and opens the door to many new possible drugs," says Niederberger. "If the studied drug is used in the future, it may add to the list of drugs used in direct injection."

So, while the need exists for a wider range of therapies, and the news of this research is encouraging, it is still too early to tell whether Y-27632 will sit beside Viagra on the shelves of the local pharmacy.

While this work examined an injectable form of Y-27632, says Wingard, current research efforts have been focusing on using it in a topical form. If this method proves a viable means of administering the compound, he says, "It could lead the way for the development of a new drug treatment of erectile dysfunction."

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the American Health Assistance Foundation.

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