Scientists Discover How Estrogen Works and Flip Its Switch to Reap Benefits Without Risks

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Estrogen is an elixir for the brain, sharpening mental performance in humans and animals and showing promise as a treatment for disorders of the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. But long-term estrogen therapy, once prescribed routinely for menopausal women, now is quite controversial because of research showing it increases the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Northwestern Medicine researchers have discovered how to reap the benefits of estrogen without the risk. Using a special compound, they flipped a switch that mimics the effect of estrogen on cortical brain cells. The scientists also found how estrogen physically works in brain cells to boost mental performance, which had not been known.

When scientists flipped the switch, technically known as activating an estrogen receptor, they witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of connections between brains cells, or neurons. Those connections, called dendritic spines, are tiny bridges that enable the brain cells to talk to each other…..

Reported by ScienceDaily
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Northwestern University, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101117161246.htm

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