Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Improved Estrogen Reception May Sharpen Fuzzy Memory

Date:
July 31, 2008
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
Finding ways to boost the brain's estrogen receptors may be an alternative to adding estrogen to the body in efforts to improve cognition in postmenopausal women and younger women with low estrogen levels, according to neuroscientists at the University of Florida's McKnight Brain Institute.

Estrogen treatments may sharpen mental performance in women with certain medical conditions, but University of Florida researchers suggest that recharging a naturally occurring estrogen receptor in the brain may also clear cognitive cobwebs.

The discovery suggests that drugs can be developed to offset "senior moments" related to low estrogen levels, as well as to protect against neurological diseases, all while avoiding the problems associated with adding estrogen to the body.

Writing online in Molecular Therapy in July, scientists with UF's McKnight Brain Institute describe how they improved thought processes in female mice bred with the inability to produce estrogen receptor-alpha, a protein apparently necessary for healthy learning and memory.

"We were able to restore function in these animals, not by dosing them with estrogen, but by enabling them to use the estrogen that was naturally present in their bodies," said Tom Foster, Ph.D., the Evelyn F. McKnight chair for brain research in memory loss at the UF College of Medicine. "We discovered that you can affect the estrogen receptor directly in the hippocampus, right where it's needed to address memory and spatial learning."

Changes in the estrogen receptor have been associated with age-related memory deficits and an increased incidence of Alzheimer's disease among women. In addition, previous studies have shown estrogen replacement may improve cognition in postmenopausal women and younger women with low estrogen levels. Estrogen also appears to protect against Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

The downside is that estrogen is a powerful hormone that has far-reaching effects throughout the body. It has been associated with a slight increase in women's risk for breast cancer, heart disease in patients with existing cardiovascular problems, and stroke.

"Estrogen may act as a growth agent for cancer, but in the brain, it appears to maintain health and counteract stress," Foster said. "We wanted to come back and enhance the signaling pathway that makes estrogen functional. We used a gene therapy technique that enables us to target the brain, but ultimately there could be a pharmaceutical that enhances the signaling pathway solely in the brain."

The mice had unusually low levels of estrogen because their ovaries were removed at an early age. However, scientists were still able to rescue learning ability by delivering the correct gene to produce estrogen receptor-alpha directly to the hippocampus.

Mice that lacked the estrogen receptor showed poor ability to locate a platform hidden in a small swimming tank over a training period of several days. After receiving the gene, the mice learned to locate the platform in two days of training.

"This research shows that when the estrogen receptor-alpha is restored to adult mice that have been missing it their entire lives, it is still possible to enhance memory and learning," said John H. Morrison, Ph.D., dean of basic sciences and the Graduate School of Biological Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who did not participate in the research. "This is good news for moving forward to develop clinical interventions and therapeutics because it appears critical damage was not done to brain circuitry during early development. There has also been debate about which of at least two estrogen receptors is key to synaptic health. Clearly estrogen receptor-alpha plays a critically important role in hippocampal organization and function."

Recordings made from the brain tissue of treated mice showed signals were strongly communicated across the gaps, or synapses, between hippocampal cells, similar to what would happen with estrogen replacement.

"Investigating the impact of genetically replacing the estrogen receptor at the cellular, synaptic and behavioral levels is a scientific tour de force which provides a strong foundation for the role of estrogen receptor alpha in mediating estrogen action in the hippocampus to restore select types of memory function," said Roberta Diaz Brinton, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences and biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, who was not involved in the study. "From a technology perspective, their technique to transfect the estrogen receptor is an exciting advance for researching steroid receptors in the brain."

Studying the effects of increasing the estrogen receptor in other brain regions may shed additional light on memory processes.

"The research brings up the idea that local activation of non-nuclear estrogen receptor-alpha is important for regulating memory processes in the hippocampus," said Teresa A. Milner, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College, who also was also not involved in the research.

UF neuroscience associate Asha Rani and UF scientists Ashok Kumar, Ph.D.; Li Cui, Ph.D.; and Susan L. Semple-Rowland, Ph.D., participated in the study, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Research Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "Improved Estrogen Reception May Sharpen Fuzzy Memory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080729160823.htm>.
University of Florida. (2008, July 31). Improved Estrogen Reception May Sharpen Fuzzy Memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080729160823.htm
University of Florida. "Improved Estrogen Reception May Sharpen Fuzzy Memory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080729160823.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Reuters - US Online Video (July 28, 2014) Two American aid workers in Liberia test positive for Ebola while working to combat the deadliest outbreak of the virus ever. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins