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Exp Neurol. 2014 Sep;259:28-37. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2014.01.008. Epub 2014 Jan 16.

Sex steroids and neuroprotection in spinal cord injury: a review of preclinical investigations.

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The Reynolds Family Spine Laboratory, Department of Neurological Surgery, New Jersey Medical School, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark, NJ 07103, USA. Electronic address:
UMR 1064, INSERM, Nantes, France; Faculté de Médecine, Université de Nantes, France; ITUN, CHU de Nantes, France.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a debilitating condition that affects motor, sensory and autonomic functions. Subsequent to the first mechanical trauma, secondary events, which include inflammation and glial activation, exacerbate tissue damage and worsen functional deficits. Although these secondary injury mechanisms are amenable to therapeutic interventions, the efficacy of current approaches is inadequate. Further investigations are necessary to implement new therapies that can protect neural cells and attenuate some of the detrimental effects of inflammation while promoting regeneration. Studies on different animal models of SCI indicated that sex steroids, especially 17β-estradiol and progesterone, exert neuroprotective, anti-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory effects, ameliorate tissue sparing and improve functional deficits in SCI. As sex steroid receptors are expressed in a variety of cells including neurons, glia and immune system-related cells which infiltrate the injury epicenter, sex steroids could impact multiple processes simultaneously and in doing so, influence the outcomes of SCI. However, the translation of these pre-clinical findings into the clinical setting presents challenges such as the narrow therapeutic time window of sex steroid administration, the diversity of treatment regimens that have been employed in animal studies and the lack of sufficient information regarding the persistence of the effects in chronic SCI. The current review will summarize some of the major findings in this field and will discuss the challenges associated with the implementation of sex steroids as a promising treatment in human SCI.


Cell death; Estrogen; Gender; Motor function; Myelination; Progesterone; Regeneration; Spinal cord; Testosterone; Trauma

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