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Vascul Pharmacol. 2005 Apr-May;42(5-6):219-32. Epub 2005 Mar 29.

Pharmacological preconditioning with sildenafil: Basic mechanisms and clinical implications.

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  • 1Division of Cardiology, Department of Internal Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, P.O. Box 980281, 1101 East Mashall Street, Room 7-046, Richmond, VA 23298-0281, USA.


The phosphodiesterase type-5 (PDE5) inhibitor, sildenafil, is the first drug developed for treatment of erectile dysfunction in patients. Experimental data in animals show that sildenafil has a preconditioning-like cardioprotective effect against ischemia/reperfusion injury in the intact heart. Mechanistic studies suggest that sildenafil exerts cardioprotection through NO generated from eNOS/iNOS, activation of protein kinase C/ERK signaling and opening of mitochondrial ATP-sensitive potassium channels. Additional studies show that the drug attenuates cell death resulting from necrosis and apoptosis, and increases the Bcl2/Bax ratio through NO signaling in adult cardiomyocytes. Emerging new data also suggest that sildenafil may be used clinically for treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension and endothelial dysfunction. Future demonstration of the cardioprotective effect in patients with the relatively safe and effective FDA-approved PDE5 inhibitors such as sildenafil could have an enormous impact on bringing the long-studied phenomenon of ischemic and pharmacologic preconditioning to the clinical forefront.

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