Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hormone Helps MS Brains

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A hormone better known for easing hot flashes in postmenopausal women may also help protect the brains of people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

UCLA researchers found a specific form of estrogen kept the brain from degenerating in mice that were bred to have the animal form of MS. When researchers looked at spinal cord tissue from mice with MS who were treated with estrogen, they found similar numbers of neurons as seen in healthy mice. Mice with MS who did not receive estrogen had significantly fewer neurons.

The finding is important because there are currently no good treatments available to protect the brain from degeneration due to MS. But the researchers are also excited because the benefit came without raising the risk of breast or uterine cancer in the animals. Estrogen has been linked to higher risks of breast cancer in women taking the hormone to treat postmenopausal symptoms.

The investigators hope to see their results lead to a new "designer estrogen" aimed at protecting the brain not only in MS, but in other conditions as well, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, and spinal cord injury. They even see potential in warding off the signs and symptoms of normal aging.

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SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online August 27, 2007