All posts by William Stiff

Longer hormone therapy associated with better cognitive status in women

Increasingly the emphasis has been on reducing estrogen levels during the transition to menopause with regard to general brain health, especially cognitive function. To counteract this reduction, more and more often, so-called “hormonal therapy” is used. A new study, published in Menopause, suggests a longer window regarding the use of hormone therapy.

It is suspected, among other things, that estrogens may play a role in raising the risk of Alzheimer’s in women considering that, for example, two-thirds of 5.5 million cases of Alzheimer’s in the United States are women. In addition, previous studies have highlighted the role of estrogen in learning and memory.

In this new study, researchers analyzed data from 2000 post-menopausal women followed for 12 years. The results showed, according to the press release that presented the study, that increased exposure to estrogen could be linked to a better state of cognition in adult women. Furthermore, the researchers discovered that those women who started hormone therapy first showed scores, in cognitive tests, higher than those women who started such therapy later.

Stephanie Faubion, medical director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), comments on these findings in the press release: “Although the assessment of the risk-benefit ratio of hormone therapy use is complicated and must be customized, this study provides further evidence of the beneficial cognitive effects of hormone therapy, particularly when started immediately after menopause. This study also highlights the potential effect of early estrogen deprivation on cognitive health in the context of premature or early menopause without adequate estrogen replacement.”

Chronic pain strongly involves a protein called RGS4

An important finding regarding chronic pain was made by a group of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. In their study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers explain that they discovered a protein called RGS4 (Regulator of G protein Signaling 4) that plays a very important role in maintaining chronic pain.

The transition from acute pain to chronic pain occurs through adaptations in the immune cells, in the glial and in the neuronal ones, changes that at the moment are not completely understood. It is precisely this lack of understanding that underlies the failure of many chronic pain medications which can also cause side effects. The only drugs that seem to actually work are opioids but these can cause serious long-term side effects.

This new discovery, which the researchers themselves refer to as “exciting”, could instead be very useful for creating new drugs that target this protein to stop chronic pain. As Venetia Zachariou, a professor at Mount Sinai explains, the RGS4 protein appears to strongly contribute to the transition from acute to pathologic/chronic pain.

The experiments, in this case, were carried out on mice: the researchers used genetically modified mice in which the action of the RGS4 protein was deactivated. This deactivation did not affect acute pain or the induction of chronic pain itself but the mice themselves recovered within three weeks.

The researchers also tried to reduce the expression of RGS4 in a particular area of ​​the brain and this caused recovery from mechanical and cold allodynia. Now researchers are trying to study the influence of RGS4 also in other areas of the body such as the spinal cord or in other areas of the brain that regulate mood.

Human cells that produce testosterone grown in the laboratory

One way to grow human cells to produce testosterone in the laboratory was developed by a group of researchers at the University of Southern California Pharmacy School.

The researchers hope that with this method it will be possible to arrive at treatments to counteract low levels of testosterone in the body by using special personalized replacement cells, as reported by Vassilios Papadopoulos, a researcher who led the study.

The researchers transformed induced pluripotent stem cells, derived from human skin or blood, into Leydig cells, which are the cells present in human testes that produce the male sex hormone.
According to the researchers, Leydig’s cells grown in the laboratory looked the same as their real counterparts.

The low level of testosterone in men, also known as hypogonadism, can lead to fertility problems and to sexual function in general and can affect mood as well as conditions such as bone density and obesity.

The level of testosterone in the body is lowered naturally in the course of the age, however more or less sudden lowering can also be caused by infections such as mumps or by treatments for cancer during childhood or adolescence.

The main therapy is that which sees the intake of testosterone which can be applied as a gel or can be taken orally or injected.

“Leydig’s human cell transplant is just a few years away,” the researcher said.