New animal studies at Henry Ford Hospital found that sildenafil, a drug commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction, may be effective in relieving painful and potentially life-threatening nerve damage in men with long-term diabetes.
The research targeted diabetic peripheral neuropathy, the most common complication of diabetes, affecting as many as 70 percent of patients.
The study was recently published online in PLOS ONE. Lei Wang, M.D., 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.
"Generally, young diabetic animals with an early stage of peripheral neuropathy are used to investigate various drug treatments," Dr. Wang explains. "But patients with diabetes who are enrolled in clinical trials often are older and have advanced peripheral neuropathy.
"Failure to develop and properly evaluate treatments in the laboratory that properly reflect the target clinical population with diabetic peripheral neuropathy may contribute to the failure of 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.