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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2009 Jul;30(2):239-58. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2009.04.015. Epub 2009 May 7.

Protective actions of sex steroid hormones in Alzheimer's disease.

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  • 1Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA. cjpike@usc.edu

Abstract

Risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with age-related loss of sex steroid hormones in both women and men. In post-menopausal women, the precipitous depletion of estrogens and progestogens is hypothesized to increase susceptibility to AD pathogenesis, a concept largely supported by epidemiological evidence but refuted by some clinical findings. Experimental evidence suggests that estrogens have numerous neuroprotective actions relevant to prevention of AD, in particular promotion of neuron viability and reduction of beta-amyloid accumulation, a critical factor in the initiation and progression of AD. Recent findings suggest neural responsiveness to estrogen can diminish with age, reducing neuroprotective actions of estrogen and, consequently, potentially limiting the utility of hormone therapies in aged women. In addition, estrogen neuroprotective actions are also modulated by progestogens. Specifically, continuous progestogen exposure is associated with inhibition of estrogen actions whereas cyclic delivery of progestogens may enhance neural benefits of estrogen. In recent years, emerging literature has begun to elucidate a parallel relationship of sex steroid hormones and AD risk in men. Normal age-related testosterone loss in men is associated with increased risk to several diseases including AD. Like estrogen, testosterone has been established as an endogenous neuroprotective factor that not only increases neuronal resilience against AD-related insults, but also reduces beta-amyloid accumulation. Androgen neuroprotective effects are mediated both directly by activation of androgen pathways and indirectly by aromatization to estradiol and initiation of protective estrogen signaling mechanisms. The successful use of hormone therapies in aging men and women to delay, prevent, and or treat AD will require additional research to optimize key parameters of hormone therapy and may benefit from the continuing development of selective estrogen and androgen receptor modulators.

PMID:
19427328
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2728624
Free PMC Article

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