Estrogen shows potential as stroke treatment, UF animal studies show

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In the UF study, researchers induced a stroke in female rats by surgically blocking the middle cerebral artery, the one most commonly implicated in human stroke. All the rats had previously undergone surgery to have their ovaries removed, so that no estrogen would be naturally circulating in their systems.

"Our strategy was to load them up with as much estrogen as we could and to get the compound to the brain as quickly as possible with an intravenous administration," Simpkins said. "We gave them about 20 times the amount that would normally have been in their bodies."

The rats were divided into several groups so that researchers could test the effect of estrogen administered at 30 minutes, and one, two, three or four hours past the inducement of the stroke. A control group received no therapy.

"As time passed, the amount of tissue that was protected declined, which indicates that there is a window of opportunity to protect brain tissue. The earlier you are in that window, the better the outcome," Simpkins said. "If you were past four hours, you wouldn't expect to see any protection."

Current treatment for stroke generally consists of "clot-busting" medications, which can help dissolve the blockage if given soon after the onset of the brain attack. In contrast, estrogen potentially could preserve the brain cells for a time while blood flow is still inhibited.

"There is the possibility that this would give physicians more time to open up the blood vessels with medications," Simpkins said.

In recent years, estrogen has claimed the research spotlight in connection with a variety of neurological problems, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, as animal studies by Simpkins and others have demonstrated its ability to keep brain cells alive and healthy. Clinical trials are under way to determine its effectiveness in preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer's in people.

Meanwhile, Simpkins has been workin

Contact: Victoria White
University of Florida

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