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Most treatments for heart failure are ineffective, which is why the new study from the University of Manchester is so exciting.

Human trials and epidemiological studies showed that Tadalafil, known by the brand name Cialis in the US, might effectively treat heart failure. Professor Andrew Trafford and colleagues performed a new study that investigated this relationship more closely. The team administered the drug to sheep with heart failure, whose condition was induced by pacemakers. Shortly after the first dose, the progression of the disease was stopped and, in some cases, the drug even managed to reverse the effects of heart failure. The dose received by the sheep was similar to the dose humans take in order to treat erectile dysfunction.

“This discovery is an important advance in a devastating condition which causes misery for thousands of people across the UK and beyond,” said Professor Trafford.

“This study provides further confirmation, adds mechanistic details and demonstrates that Tadalafil could now be a possible therapy for heart failure,” he added.

Tadalafil is known to block the activity of an enzyme called Phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5S), whose role is to regulate how tissue responds to hormones like adrenaline. Trafford and colleagues found that in sheep affected by heart failure, the drug triggers a cascade of chemical reactions that restores the heart’s ability to respond to adrenaline. For instance, breathlessness due to heart failure is caused by the inability of the heart to respond to adrenaline and this symptom disappeared in the sheep that were given Tadalafil.

The drug also increased the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body. However, despite the promising results, the researchers advise people that they shouldn’t self-medicate and ought to always consult with their doctors before taking new medication.

“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. 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,” said Professor Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation.

The findings appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.