A signalling molecule in the brain linked to male sexual arousal may also unlock potential treatments for migraine, chronic pain, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers at Leicester University are working with the molecule nitric oxide, which controls blood pressure and penile erection and is exploited by drugs such as Viagra.
Researcher Adam Tozer said: “Nitric oxide-synthesising enzymes are widely expressed in brain cells – prompting the question “Why is a molecule that can produce penile erections necessary in the brain?”
“The brain is a communication station, and understanding how the cells “talk” to each other will help in the treatment of neurodegenerative disease.”
He hopes that the research, funded by the Medical Research Council, will help illuminate the complexity of communication between brain cells, “and therefore provide openings for therapeutic strategies against … debilitating conditions”.
Mr Tozer will present his research at the Festival of Postgraduate Research at the university’s Charles Wilson Building.
Copyright Press Association 2009