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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Apr 27;101(17):6734-9. Epub 2004 Apr 7.

11Beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase inhibition improves cognitive function in healthy elderly men and type 2 diabetics.

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  • 1Endocrinology Unit, School of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Molecular Medicine Centre, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh EH4 2XU, United Kingdom.


In aging humans and rodents, inter-individual differences in cognitive function have been ascribed to variations in long-term glucocorticoid exposure. 11beta-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11beta-HSD1) regenerates the active glucocorticoid cortisol from circulating inert cortisone, thus amplifying intracellular glucocorticoid levels in some tissues. We show that 11beta-HSD1, but not 11beta-HSD2, mRNA is expressed in the human hippocampus, frontal cortex, and cerebellum. In two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover studies, administration of the 11beta-HSD inhibitor carbenoxolone (100 mg three times per day) improved verbal fluency (P < 0.01) after 4 weeks in 10 healthy elderly men (aged 55-75 y) and improved verbal memory (P < 0.01) after 6 weeks in 12 patients with type 2 diabetes (52-70 y). Although carbenoxolone has been reported to enhance hepatic insulin sensitivity in short-term studies, there were no changes in glycemic control or serum lipid profile, nor was plasma cortisol altered. 11beta-HSD1 inhibition may be a new approach to prevent/ameliorate cognitive decline.

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