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Neuroscience. 2003;121(3):659-66.

Effects of estrogen and raloxifene on neuroglia number and morphology in the hippocampus of aged female mice.

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Laboratory of Experimental Gerontology, Gerontology Research Center, National Institute on Aging, NIH, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


Hormone replacement therapy with the gonadal steroid estrogen or synthetic agents such as raloxifene, a selective estrogen receptor modulator, may affect cellular function in brains of postmenopausal women. In vitro studies suggest that 17beta estradiol and raloxifene can alter the microglial and astrocyte expression of immuno-neuronal modulators, such as cytokines, complement factors, chemokines, and other molecules involved in neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. To directly test whether exogenous 17beta estradiol and raloxifene affect the number of glial cells in brain, C57BL/6NIA female mice aged 20-24 months received bilateral ovariectomy followed by s.c. placement of a 60-day release pellet containing 17beta estradiol (1.7 mg), raloxifene (10 mg), or placebo (cholesterol). After 60 days, numbers of microglia and astrocytes were quantified in dentate gyrus and CA1 regions of the hippocampal formation using immunocytochemistry and design-based stereology. The results show that long-term 17beta estradiol treatment in aged female mice significantly lowered the numbers of astrocytes and microglial cells in dentate gyrus and CA1 regions compared with placebo. After long-term treatment with raloxifene, a similar reduction was observed in numbers of astrocytes and microglial cells in the hippocampal formation. These findings indicate that estrogen and selective estrogen receptor modulators can influence glial-mediated inflammatory pathways and possibly protect against age- and disease-related neuropathology.

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