Estrogen improves Parkinson's disease symptoms

Estrogen improves Parkinson's disease symptoms
Confocal microscopy of neurons in control (top) and estrogen-treated mice with Parkinson's-like pathology. The estrogen treatment results in higher estrogen levels (green) and reduced Parkinson's symptoms. Credit: Rajsombath et al., JNeurosci 2019

Brain-selective estrogen treatment improves the symptoms of Parkinson's disease in male mice, according to new research published in JNeurosci. These findings may help explain the sex differences in Parkinson's disease and could lead to estrogen-based treatments.

Parkinson's disease is characterized by the death of neurons involved in movement, which may be partially caused by gene mutations for the protein α-synuclein. The mutated, shorter form of the protein clusters in neurons, resulting in their death, while the longer form resists clumping.

Estrogen is thought to protect movement neurons from Parkinson's disease, but how is unknown. Since the patients more susceptible to Parkinson's disease—men and post-menopausal women—have low estrogen levels, estrogen treatment might be an effective way to delay and reduce symptoms.

Silke Nuber and colleagues at Harvard Medical School treated mouse models of Parkinson's disease with brain-selective estrogen and compared the motor performance of males and females before and after treatment. The female mice showed less severe symptoms at a later age, but estrogen still improved their symptoms. In , the estrogen treatment reduced α-synuclein breakdown and buildup and helped with , suggesting that could be a viable treatment option for Parkinson's patients with .

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More information: Female Sex and Brain-Selective Estrogen Benefit α-Synuclein Tetramerization and the PD-Like Motor Syndrome in 3K Transgenic Mice, JNeurosci (2019). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0313-19.2019
Journal information: Journal of Neuroscience

Citation: Estrogen improves Parkinson's disease symptoms (2019, August 12) retrieved 24 August 2019 from
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Aug 14, 2019
The research on estrogen and Parkinson's has been equivocal. Additionally, the presence of high levels of estrogen in premenopausal women isn't the sole part of hormonal physiology - there are cycles, peaks and valleys, in both estrogen AND progesterone.

Neither the observational nor the RCT components of WHI found reduced risks of Parkinson's in HRT users. Moreover, a 2005 Kaiser Permanente study from California evaluated reproductive factors in women and found interesting associations. Estrogen/progestin use in non-hysterectomized women showed no effect on PD, regardless of duration. However, women with hysterectomy taking estrogen ALONE had a >2.5-fold higher Parkinson's risk, and the longer the duration, the greater the increase. Also, women with an early natural menopause (before 45) had a 50% LOWER risk of Parkinson's. A 2015 meta-analysis also showed a 24% higher risk of PD in cohort studies, again suggesting higher risk with increasing duration of HRT use.

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