UCLA scientists have found the first evidence that a specific form of estrogen can protect the brain from degeneration yet not increase the risk for estrogen-induced cancers of the breast and uterus. The study took place in mice infected with the animal equivalent of multiple sclerosis.
While people with MS have many choices for anti-inflammatory drugs to help prevent flare-ups of their physical symptoms, no medication exists to stop the disorder from causing degeneration of the brain and spinal cord. The UCLA findings offer potential for a "designer estrogen" that doctors could prescribe in higher doses without increasing a patient's cancer risk, as well as a potent MS cocktail blending the hormone with a standard anti-inflammatory treatment.
This form of estrogen also offers a new weapon for combating brain degeneration caused by Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's disease, spinal cord injury and even normal aging. Finally, men may be able to use it without fear of developing the feminine side effects often produced by standard estrogen treatments.
Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl, Jack H. Skirball Chair in Multiple Sclerosis Research and professor of neurology; and Seema Tiwari-Woodruff, assistant professor of neurology, both from the UCLA Multiple Sclerosis Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine, are available for interviews.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and National Multiple Sclerosis Society supported the research.
The study appears in the Aug. 27 - 31 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Color images comparing the effect of "designer estrogen" on healthy spinal cord tissue versus MS-infected tissue are available upon request.