It was previously known that men and postmenopausal women have a higher chance of getting Parkinson’s disease. Premenopausal women comparatively have a lower risk. New research by Harvard Medical School on mice tells us that the cause might be estrogen. Hence, researchers are figuring out whether estrogen can be used or Parkinson’s treatment.
Parkinson’s disease affects about 50,000 Americans annually. It is a neurodegenerative disease that may develop as an individual gets older. There is currently no cure, so any new treatment developed is welcomed.
Doctors and authors of the study are now working towards incorporating estrogen as the basis of treatments for Parkinson’s disease in the future.
How Estrogen can be used
There is a protein called alpha-synuclein, which builds up in the brain of a person with Parkinson’s disease. This creates Lewy bodies and neurites and also prevents brain cells from functioning, leading to their death. The results of which are tremors and rigidity, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
There are, however, still many unanswered questions about this disease, one of which is why more postmenopausal women suffer from is and why men develop it earlier.
Researchers decided to seek an answer by studying the role of estrogen. Earlier studies have identified a link between the two, even saying that estrogen protects the brain.
A previous study looked at women who have had one or both ovaries surgically removed. Results showed that they had an increased chance of developing Parkinson’s disease and cognitive decline.
Other studies have shown that estrogen may be used to treat motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Though it has been proven that estrogen has protective abilities when it comes to diseases of the brain, scientists are yet to figure out how it manages to do so.
Harvard researchers use estrogen treatment for Parkinson’s disease
Harvard researchers recently created a new model of Parkinson’s disease using mice. The mice were given a chemical (DHED), which heightened estrogen levels in their brains.
Before the treatment began, the motor functions of the male and female mice were recorded. They found that the females had high motor functions and a lower rate of neuron death.
After the treatment, researchers found that in male mice, the estrogen slowed the neuron mortality rate and increased motor function.
Researchers found that the estrogen helped in preventing a substantial build-up of mutated alpha-synuclein. It did this by boosting autophagy, a body mechanism that gets rid of cellular debris.
Furthermore, scientists found that in male mice, the estrogen aided the production of certain enzymes that help in the production of precursors for dopamine. Such functions were already present in the brains of the female mice before treatment began.
This information gathered from the mice model coupled with all available previous research; scientists deduce that estrogen is protective against Parkinson’s disease.
Not only can this hormone be used in slowing the development of the disease, but once a person has been diagnosed, it can be used to treat symptoms as well. Hence, it can be derived that estrogen for Parkinson’s treatment is a good idea.
However, it is imperative to note that the hormone may work differently when applied to the human model and may have a different set of challenges.