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Curr Alzheimer Res. 2007 Dec;4(5):510-7.

Regeneration in a degenerating brain: potential of allopregnanolone as a neuroregenerative agent.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Program in Neuroscience, University of Southern California, School of Pharmacy, 1985 Zonal Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA.


Confronting the efficacy of a regenerative therapeutic is the degenerative environment that is characterized by neuronal loss, physical plague and glial scar barriers and inflammation. But perhaps more fundamental from a regenerative perspective, are changes in the biochemical milieu of steroid and peptide growth factors, cytokines and neurotransmitter systems. Data from multiple levels of analysis indicate that gonadal steroid hormones and their metabolites can promote neural health whereas their decline or absence are associated with decline in neural health and increased risk of neurodegenerative disease including Alzheimer's. Among the steroids in decline, is allopregnanolone (APbeta, a neurosteroid metabolite of progesterone, which was found to be reduced in the serum [1,2] and plasma [3] and brain of aged vs. young subjects [4]. Further, Alzheimer disease (AD) victims showed an even further reduction in plasma and brain levels of APalpha relative to age-matched neurologically normal controls [1,4,5]. Our earlier work has shown that APalpha is a neurogenic agent for rodent hippocampal neural progenitors and for human neural progenitor cells derived from the cerebral cortex[6]. Our ongoing research seeks to determine the neurogenic potential of APalpha in the triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease (3xTgAD) as AD related pathology progresses from imperceptible to mild to severe. Initial analyses suggest that neurogenic potential changes with age in nontransgenic mice and that the neurogenic profile differs between non-transgenic and 3xTgAD mice. Comparative analyses indicate that APalpha modifies neurogenesis in both nontransgenic and 3xTgAD mice. Preliminary data suggest that APalpha may modify Alzheimer's pathology progression. Together the data indicate that APalpha may maintain the regenerative ability of the brain and modify progression of AD related pathology. Challenges for efficacy of regenerative agents within a degenerative milieu are discussed.

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