Estrogen shows potential as stroke treatment, UF animal studies show

GAINESVILLE, Fla.---A high dose of estrogen administered soon after a stroke can prevent a substantial amount of brain damage in laboratory animals, University of Florida researchers reported today (3/3) in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

When rats are injected with the female hormone within 30 minutes of a surgically induced stroke, the death rate for brain cells drops by 60 percent. Even three hours later, estrogen still can save 30 to 40 percent of the cells, said James W. Simpkins, chairman of the department of pharmaceutics in UF's College of Pharmacy and director of the university's Center for the Neurobiology of Aging.

The study builds on statistical observations that postmenopausal women who take estrogen replacement therapy are more likely to survive stroke than those who do not.

Simpkins, who has been studying estrogen for 25 years, noted that in previous laboratory studies, he and his colleagues have shown that giving the hormone before a stroke can protect against its harmful effects.

"Here we have confirmation that it has potential for treating a patient who comes into the emergency room with stroke symptoms," said Simpkins, who also is affiliated with UF's Brain Institute and collaborated on the research with UF neurosurgeons Shao-Hua Yang and Arthur Day.

Simpkins cautioned, however, that much more research needs to be done before anyone afflicted with stroke is treated with estrogen. Clinical trials will have to be conducted to test the safety and effectiveness of such an approach in humans, he said.

An estimated 500,000 Americans suffer stroke each year, according to the National Institutes of Health, with approximately 80 percent of the attacks resulting from a clot that blocks the flow of blood to an area of the brain. Without oxygen and essential nutrients, brain cells begin to die. The more severe the die-off, the more pronounced the resulting physical and cognitive limitations, such as paralysis or d

Contact: Victoria White
University of Florida

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